Gun Victoria allrounder Will Sutherland has emerged from a losing Sheffield Shield final with his reputation enhanced and higher honours likely on the horizon.
Hampered by a back injury, Sutherland still managed to make a contest of what had loomed as a potential innings defeat when Western Australia reduced the visitors to 6-74 in their second innings at the WACA Ground.
His valiant 83 off 84 balls lifted Victoria's total to 210, although WA had few troubles chasing down a target of 91 to claim a nine-wicket victory on day four.
Sutherland had sent down 28 overs for figures of 5-75 during WA's first innings, bending his back and hitting the deck hard despite being in obvious discomfort.
He finished as the Shield's leading wicket-taker with 41 wickets at 19.92, and his 467 runs placed him fourth on Victoria's scoring tally.
Sutherland had been promoted to the captaincy during Peter Handscomb's absence on Test duties, and his lion-hearted performance underscored why he is seen as one of the nation's best young prospects.
Victoria coach Chris Rogers hailed Sutherland's "phenomenal" season as further evidence of the growth within his developing squad.
"He's played the most amount of days for us this year and he's doing that as a 23-year-old," Rogers said.
"He's carried the side a little bit at different times on his back, particularly with the ball.
"I'm not sure he would have believed he could have got an 80 on the WACA even 12 months ago, so he's really trending in the right direction."
Rogers also praised the determination of 21-year-old opener Ash Chandrasinghe, who absorbed almost seven hours at the crease and faced 280 balls in Victoria's first innings for an unbeaten score of just 46.
Chandrasinghe had been left out of the decider on the basis of form but was a last-minute call-up to replace the injured Travis Dean.
"So many young guys would get in that position and almost feel a little bit embarrassed and just throw their wicket away," Rogers said.
"He knows he's got work to do on his game. He doesn't want to bat like that ... but I give him full credit for the fight he showed for the team."
Chandrasinghe was one of six players aged under 25 who featured in Victoria's XI.
"We are going to get better, so that's quite a big positive for us," Rogers said.
"It still bloody hurts that we lost another final and I don't want that to be a habit but I think we're heading in the right direction."