The 2017 TAC Cup season came to an end for Gippsland Power at the weekend after they were outclassed by the Geelong Falcons at MARS Stadium in Ballarat.
Power was bolstered for the elimination final match-up with the return of Callan McKeon, Nick Lowden, Cody Henness and Matt McGannon and managed three first-term majors, but the Falcons flexed their muscle after quarter time and proved why they're a serious contender, keeping their opponent goalless after the first break to record a 16.11 (107) to 3.4 (22) win.
"It was a disappointing result today but I was really proud of the boys' efforts and I don't think they gave in at all," Power coach Leigh Brown said.
"We played a really good side in Geelong who have played some super footy throughout the year and we matched them early but we just weren't able to sustain that."
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Power after they were on the receiving end of a 64-point belting at the hands of Geelong in round 15, but three wins on the trot thereafter to round out the season proper gave the Gippslanders a seventh-spot finish.
Irving Mosquito drew first blood of the game with a spectacular mark and goal, but the Falcons responded immediately with a dominant passage of play from the centre bounce.
Power hit back through Will Stephenson for a goal but the momentum shifted in Geelong's favour after a goal from a free-kick.
Gippsland went in to the first break with an 11-point lead, but it was all downhill from there.
The fast Falcons forwards proved unstoppable in the first half with Gryan Miers and Lachie Noble notching three goals each.
The Power continued to apply their trademark pressure across the ground but their finishing proved ineffective and gifted the Falcons a bag of turnovers.
In the second and third quarters the Power worked to limit Geelong's damage but the scoreboard painted a picture that wasn't reflective of their effort.
It was Geelong's defence that shone most with Matthew Ling leading the way after quarter-time.
The last term was error-riddled for the Power, as the Falcons kicked in to gear with some stunning rebound football and six goals.
Despite the 85-point loss, Brown praised his side for its consistent effort and intent.
"I thought the boys fought it out really well and we actually got our hands on the footy a fair bit and played some decent footy throughout the day but we just couldn't finish our work inside forward 50," Brown said.
The Power will take many positives out of 2017 despite their early finals exit, with several players putting in standout seasons.
Young wingman Bailey Beck made a huge impact at contests and a combination of pace and hardness helped him to 20 possessions, seven marks and 11 tackles.
Defender Will Leslie also contributed well and helped minimise the impact of dangerous opponents with 20 possessions.
Captain Aidan Quigley played a vital role in nullifying the contribution of the Falcons stars and his disciplined defensive work was matched by his willingness to use possession to generate clean passages of play.
Youngster Xavier Duursma belied his age and played a crucial role in midfield and defence while vice captain Will Stephenson was an influential member of the side's midfield and consistently applied pressure to win the contested ball.
Key defender Sean Masterson also had a marketable impact all season with his ability to take on and defeat the opposition's most dangerous tall forwards.
Brown remained resolute and said he looked forward to what 2018 would bring for his chargers.
"There's an opportunity for the boys to now recover and refresh for the bottom ages to get ready and start to think about next year and what that looks like," he said.
"For the older boys, they've been fantastic and they've got an opportunity to move on to the next part of their footy journey."