DEAN Stanley laughs when he is asked if he is the unluckiest person to ever play Aussie rules.

But when you have luck like he has had in grand finals, that's probably all you can do.

At 45, Werribee-born Stanley will make his 11th grand final appearance tomorrow when he lines up for the Hervey Bay Bombers against Across The Waves.

The catch is, though, he has never won a premiership.

Perhaps because he has never wanted a flag more badly, Stanley conceded he was mixing nerves with excitement ahead of the big match.

"I've been nervous since last Saturday," the on-baller said.

"To get this opportunity again at my age is an added bonus for me and I can't wait.

"I'm hoping number 11 is my lucky number."

The first grand final Stanley contested was 34 years ago when he was a junior playing for Hoppers Crossing in the Western Regional Football League in Victoria.

The loss in the under-11 decider was the start of a run of four consecutive grand final defeats for him and the team.

As he got older, the pain of losing a grand final didn't get easier.

He lost another with Carlton in the under-19 VFL competition under legendary coach Dennis Pagan.

But the one that still eats at him was during the 1990s with Werribee.

"I lost a couple of VFA (Victorian Football Association, now known as Victorian Football League) grand finals, but there was one when we went undefeated all year and were seven goals up at three-quarter-time and lost by three points to Williamstown," he said. "That's the one I try to forget the most."

Although grand final glory has eluded him so far, Stanley refuses to count himself unlucky.

"I've been lucky to even play in one grand final when there are some blokes I've grown up with who have never played in grand finals," he said.

It wasn't long ago Stanley thought his dream of a premiership was over, but a move to Hervey Bay with his wife Linda earlier this year has changed all that.

Once named as an emergency player for Footscray but just missing out on making his VFL/AFL debut, the former truck driver-turned- landscaper has enjoyed a terrific year in his first season with the Bombers.

And while his is one of the oldest players in the AFL Wide Bay competition, he doesn't look it.

A strong-bodied midfielder with remarkably great endurance and terrific foot skills, Stanley is keen to put his past grand final heartaches behind him when he takes the field tomorrow.



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