AS Dean Oxley stood on the sidelines at Endeavour Oval last year and watched the Orange Emus come from behind to beat his Bathurst Bulldogs in the 2018 Blowes Clothing Cup grand final, he was hurting.
But that pain has become something Oxley has embraced this season and it one of the things he is using to drive his Bulldogs towards glory.
He used Emus' effort - they came from an 11-9 half-time deficit to win 30-18 - as an example of what his first grade squad needed to do themselves.
"After being beaten by Emus last year, and we were leading at half-time, we were hurting to be honest after that grand final loss," Oxley admitted.
It's a great game every time we play them, they've had four grand finals in a row up there, I'm just glad it's our time.Bulldogs coach Pete Bromley
"We got bashed up in the second half, they went to another level and we got left behind. We've been speaking about that all year, about being able to lift when we need to and being able to play the footy under pressure that we know we can play."
Lifting under pressure is something that has been a trademark of Bulldogs' performances this season.
It was what they did in last Saturday's major semi-final against Emus to secure Bulldogs hosting rights for a grand final for the first time since 2002.
With 20 minutes to go Emus - hunting for their fifth consecutive home grand final - held a one point advantage and were dominating in terms of possession and field position.
But Bulldogs lifted in defence and moved back in front via a Will Oldham penalty goal, posting a gritty 23-21 win.
"It's a great game every time we play them, they've had four grand finals in a row up there, I'm just glad it's our time," Oxley said.
"I said that it's our time, our home today, so to be able to get that job done was great ... just a few things went our way and we were able to lift at the right moments.
"We were finishing stronger, even though we were camped in our half against the wind, the boys were coming up off the line. We spoke a lot about defence, that was what was going to win us the game.
"It wasn't pretty, but major semi-finals and grand finals aren't pretty. We just had to go out there and get that job done."
It was not just the Bathurst Bulldogs first XV who booked a spot in the August 24 grand final with victory last Saturday.
The second and third grade plus colts outfits all qualified as well, while the women's outfit will take on Narromine this Saturday in a Ferguson Cup preliminary final.
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Oxley said that is testament to the hard work the coaching staff and players have put in not just to weekly training sessions and on the pitch each Saturday, but during the pre-season as well.
"There was a bit of criticism about how early we started this year, whether we were going to burn out during the year, but the boys have done the work," Oxley said.
"We really needed the break last week. Emus I heard trained last week but we didn't need to train, our fitness was in the bank, we needed to recover because we've had a big year.
"We're going to have another week off now and that's going to give us a chance to recover and come out and have a dig in two weeks' time."
In the decider Bulldogs will face the winner of this Saturday's preliminary final between Orange Emus and Cowra Eagles.
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