As North Launceston once again prised away another State League trophy, Jay Lockhart missed out again.
The former Bomber half-back already had two next to his name, but also sat out the 2015 triumph with injury.
But Lockhart’s decision to leave teammates for the VFL appears to be vindicated.
Another season on and the 22-year-old runs onto Etihad Stadium for Casey Scorpions in Sunday’s VFL grand final against Box Hill Hawks.
The Melbourne-affiliate has all but mimicked its AFL counterpart in a dream run into September.
The last time the once-named Springvale side made a VFL grand final was 1999.
Lockhart’s plucky sacrifice to pursue an AFL career has been made easier by Casey coach Jade Rawlings.
The Tasmanian could well speak from experience, which resulted in 148 difficult games across three clubs.
But Devonport-born Rawlings, who made a name at both ends of the ground for Hawthorn, has been a big fan of Lockhart’s transition to tackling AFL-listed players.
“He’s been exceptional,” Rawlings told Fairfax Media.
“He came to us with a good pedigree of playing in the TSL and was a reputable player in that competition.
“It was a bit of an unknown to how that would translate to the VFL, but as soon as he came to us we were impressed with his attitude and he has improved significantly over the season.”
Lockhart’s dashing runs off the flank to set up North Launceston’s attacking raids had grabbed the attention of fans and insiders alike.
It would culminate with not only pulling on the Map, but an invite last year to the AFL rookie combine.
The Lefroy Medallist as Tasmania’s best against the NEAFL side earned a second invite for the October test.
Rawlings firmly believes Lockhart has taken his game from a fringe player to a key towards winning on Sunday.
“He’s played as small defender, but he is a permanent inside midfielder, who we can now swing forward because he knows how to find a way to kick a goal,” he said.
“It’s been a phenomenal season from him – he’s genuinely tough and plays our style very effectively.
“I just could not have been more pleased with what Jay has delivered.”