FOR the Imperials Football and Netball Club 2021 is the year that could have been.
For coach Brad Hards, the decision by the Sunraysia Football and Netball League to cancel the season, is absolutely soul crushing.
Hards has always bled green and white.
I recall many, many years ago sitting in a classroom at Werrimull P-12 School on many Monday mornings.
Hards and fellow classmate and teammate Simon Callahan would bring their enthusiasm from their victorious weekend with Imperials into the classroom – and week in, week out we’d be privy to a rendition of their club song.
To this day, I’d say nearly 20 years later, I can still remember the Imps song, complete with the follows on.
“Did we win? We s*it it in. How did we do it? Easy!”
And who could forget: “What do we eat? Muscles. How do we eat them? Raw!”
Hards has won five premierships with Imperials including one that he coached, a further five runners-up and he’s claimed four club best and fairest awards.
He’s spent 17 seasons with the club and it would be a sad day if Hards was to go out on such a low note – with a season that he said has had no conclusion.
With a business and a young family, Hards said coaching was probably out of the question next year, and he was unsure if he would take to the field again in 2022.
When the SFNL announced they were calling the season off earlier this week, Imperials were sitting on top of the ladder and another premiership, Hards said, was achievable.
“It’s very disappointing to have the season cancelled, absolutely gut wrenching,” Hards said.
“To go through all that hard work – whether you are on top of the ladder, or the bottom, you still need some kind of result for the season, and it’s pretty much like there hasn’t been a season at all now.
“I definitely believe we had what it takes to win the premiership this season, without a doubt.
“I believe we were the best team throughout the season, and although it all comes down to that one final day, I do believe we had the team to do it.”
Hards said given the revised season was completed to an extent that the league were preparing for finals, he would have liked to have seen the premiership awarded.
“Sitting in second place is Irymple and we have played and beaten them twice,” Hards said.
“We’d beaten Merbein, who are third and we obviously beat Mildura, who were fourth.
“The only team we didn’t beat was Ouyen, who are last, and I still don’t know how that happened.”
Hards said given the SFNL had of awarded the premiership, it would have been some consolation for the boys.
“What goes down in the books?,” he said.
“There’s nothing up on the award boards at the club.
“There could have been a premiership.
“It seems like a lot of hard work for nothing.”
With the season ending in anti-climax, Hards hasn’t had time to ponder his future in football without emotion.
“I wasn’t planning on going around again next season,” he said.
“I was planning to finish this year and hoping to go out on a bit of a high.
“But now I’m not really sure.
“Body wise I am definitely okay, but it’s the time factor – running a business, having three young kids.
“Football is a lot and it has to come at a point some stage.”
By Zoey Andrews.
ABOVE: Brad Hards (right) pictured with good friend, former school mate and fellow Imperials footballer Simon Callahan, said the green and white had what it takes to win the premiership this year.