Woodside is poised to make its best start to a North Gippsland season since formation in 2007 should it topple Gormandale on Saturday.
After a year in the lurch, the secret to revival and a 2-0 ledger has been simple – the Wildcats are playing for fun again.
And it’s always more fun when you’re winning, something new coach Gary Jones knows well after years of success with Gippsland League giant Maffra.
“(Enjoyment) is huge, just for this club because they are renowned for being up and down,” Jones said.
“Some of the guys last year were stuck in that mindset… they were there but didn’t really enjoy it.
“You look at the history over the last eight years they’ve made finals twice… another three or four years they’ve probably been down the bottom – it’s just really good to have that excitement around.”
Following big wins over Yarram and Cowwarr the Wildcats are well placed to go three-zip against the Tigers on form.
The speed at which the squad has settled into the system has been something of a surprise for Jones, given the eclectic nature of his recruitment.
Players coming in from Darwin, Melbourne and Bairnsdale meant the side had no game time as a full squad during pre-season, but Jones found a canny way to make it work.
The former Eagle tailored a game plan around his players’ strengths, observed in separate intraclub hit-outs, which has proved a good fit.
“Probably the way we’ve adapted to our game plan (is the most pleasing thing), there’s still a few areas that are not 100 per cent right, but we’ve adapted pretty quick and that was a concern because we’ve got guys from all over the place,” Jones said.
“To be able to get to round one and play as well as we did, that was probably the pleasing aspect.”
The new coach conceded a favourable draw had contributed to the fast start, but could scarcely have scripted a better build up before tackling the big boys of the league.
“The team’s we’ve played so far didn’t play finals last year; the second half of the draw is probably the real big test for us when we play the more consistent, stronger teams,” Jones said.
“It’s worked out really well for us. We’ve come from a long way back last season with the amount of games we got really embarrassed in.
“If we had of started with a couple of losses the mindset of the guys might be ‘it’s just going to be the same as last year and we haven’t really improved’ – a couple of wins gives us a lot more confidence.”
The Wildcats go in as favourites against Gormandale, but won’t take the side lightly after its round two efforts against Glengarry.
The Tigers clawed to within four points by the final siren after trailing by 22 at the last change.
Jones said Woodside would be on guard but was more focused on its internal development than external tormentors.
“If you look at (Gormandale) at the weekend anyone can do damage on any given day,” he said.
“If we do the right things we think the scoreboard will look after itself.
“If we play a half decent team and we lose but play the style we want then we were beaten by a better team.
“You can go out and win by a lot but play a bad team style of footy and that’s not really where we want to go.”
The Wildcats are at home to Gormandale from 2.15pm on Saturday.
Glengarry v TTU
Sale City v Churchill
Woodside v Gormandale
Yarram v Heyfield
Rosedale v Cowwarr (Sunday)