The Peel Cavaliers claimed a third-placed finish at this year's Landmark Country Football Championships, but despite missing out on a grand final berth coach Craig Rakich remains "tremendously proud" of his young group.
A victory over the Northern Suns in the third vs fourth playoff locked down a top-three spot for the Cavs, in what proved a strong finish to a carnival Rakich described as "tough across the board."
Peel opened their campaign with a tough first-up loss to the South West (who would go on to win the title for a fourth straight year) but made significant strides forward in the ensuing games.
Following the South West clash, Peel was able to bounce back claiming a 5.9 (39) to 4.4 (28) victory over the Suns in their second game, with forwards Ben Otto and Craig Milward snaring two goals apiece while Nixon Purser put in an outstanding game.
The win moved Peel off the bottom of the ladder heading into day two, keeping their hopes of a grand final berth alive.
Those hopes were unfortunately ended when the Cavs ran into the Great Southern the following day, with the undefeated Storm outfit dealing Peel their second loss of the carnival despite strong showings from Otto (three goals) and Riley Vidovich.
But much like day one Peel was able to bounce back with an improved display in their second game, as they toppled Regional Districts.
Otto booted yet another three goals in the victory while Andrew Barker and Tyler Glands were dominant around the ground.
From there Peel moved into their final with the Suns, which they won 7.10 (52) to 3.1 (19).
Rakich said he was rapt with his playing group's effort and intensity, while citing their individual improvement across the campaign.
"The toughness of the whole competition was probably a little higher than it had been in past seasons so to see the boys compete and come away with three wins from five games was excellent," he said.
"We were really proud of the progress they made as players as well.
"These championships expose the boys to a higher grade of footy, and having competed well here will give them a confidence they can use when they return to their local clubs.
"There are some really bright futures among our group. Personally I'm really excited to track their footy moving forward."
Peel's colts players will now return to their local clubs as the Peel Football and Netball League season resumes this coming weekend.
Many have already tasted senior footy at the local level, while others will likely get their chance to debut in the back end of the year.