LIVEWIRE utility Alex Pye believes Dennington heads into the Warrnambool and District league preliminary final in better shape than it did 12 months ago.
The Dogs will take on Kolora-Noorat at Reid Oval on Saturday, riding a wave of finals momentum which has become typical of the playing group.
They were outsiders to progress past week one of finals last season but stunned fans by making the preliminary final, falling agonisingly short of eventual premier Panmure.
A similar feeling has hung over Dennington Recreation Reserve this week.
The opponent is different and the list has changed slightly, but the Dogs will again attack the grand final qualifier in devastating form.
Pye, one of the best players in the first semi-final rout of Merrivale on Sunday, said there was no standout reason why the Dogs had suddenly found form.
He said coach Darcy Lewis had a major influence on the players wanting to achieve in finals.
“It all comes down to Darcy, I suppose. You watch him play and it inspires the whole team, pretty much,” Pye said.
“He puts his heart and soul into the job. Everyone just lifts for finals because it’s all he wants, to make a grand final.
“No one wants to let him down.”
Pye said the heartbreaking end to season 2012, in which Dennington lost to Panmure by two points but had eight more scoring shots, was driving the playing group.
He is one of nine players who featured in that match and ran out again last Sunday.
“Because we fell so short of a grand final berth last year, no one has really taken for granted making a preliminary final,” he said.
“We know how hard it’s going to be. Coming from the elimination final, you don’t really get a second chance.”
The task facing Pye and his teammates is formidable.
Kolora-Noorat has destroyed Dennington in their two matches this season — by 88 points in round nine and 76 points in round 14.
The Dogs managed just 5.7 in the first match and 2.6 in the second, both played in adverse weather conditions.
But Lewis’ men have finally settled their list and structure and are in red-hot form at the right time of the year.
Chris Keilar has spent large parts of the season at centre half-back but has kicked 10 goals in two finals playing as a permanent forward.
The midfield — Sam Lewis, Brandon Everard and Jordan Greene included — has also shown the necessary aggression, while the defence has been miserly.
Pye said the Dogs were better positioned to claim a grand final berth than last season.
“A year might not seem like a long time but all the boys have stayed together,” he said.
“You can tell the sides like Kolora-Noorat — their blokes have played together for five or six years and look how good they have become.
“A year does help a lot.”