THE resurgence of Warrnambool and District league wooden-spooner Old Collegians is on in earnest and Nathan Forth is enjoying every minute of the ride.
The former coach stayed loyal to the club during its darkest days last season when, ravaged by departures, it went winless and, at times, uncompetitive.
But there is renewed buoyancy at Davidson Oval one round in to the new campaign following a 75-point triumph against Nirranda on Sunday.
Forth, now an assistant coach and among the best in the win against the Blues, said he could sense the new-found enthusiasm at the club.
“It was a little bit of relief to get that win on the board and put to rest any doubts in anyone’s head that we would struggle again,” he said.
“Hopefully there are another 17 stepping stones to come, that’ll be the end of the year then and hopefully we’re playing finals.”
The rise of Old Collegians, six months in the making, started with the appointment of Cobden onballer Daryl Beechey as coach in late September.
Recruits then arrived thick and fast. Of the 21 who played in round one, 12 were either new faces or returnees who had little or no impact last season.
“We’ve done a power of work. It’s been a pretty long, gruelling pre-season,” Forth said.
“It was good to get out for the first real game and get that win on the board, get that confidence.
“We’ll play Kolora-Noorat this week, that will show us where we’re really at. They’ve been the powerhouse over the last four or five years.
“Our first six weeks are among the toughest in the comp. We’re ready to tackle it head on, it’s good to test yourselves.
“You want to play the best sides to see where you’re at and where you can improve.”
Forth, who co-coached with Jimmy McKenzie last season, said the pre-season under Beechey had been “very similar to the way we did it”.
The biggest change, he said, was the quality of players who had joined Old Collegians, which had raised the standard at training and competition for spots.
The best three players on Sunday were Colby Rix, Aaron Williams and Eli Barker — all new or returned faces, although Williams played at the tail-end of 2013.
Josh Walsh, Jacob Dunkley, Daniel Weel, Chris Chambers, Jack Marney, James Ryan, Darren Lloyd, David Lush and Beechey were the other inclusions.
“There are a core group of blokes that are pushing each other. We didn’t have that last year, that’s the biggest thing,” Forth said.
“Everyone in the core group is competitive against each other, that raises the bar at training. Daryl has taken that on board and really pushed some blokes to their limit.
“We’ve got a lot of rotations now, we’ve got a target to kick to (Chris Chambers) and an experienced ruckman (Darren Lloyd) as well.”