Merrivale mentor Josh Sobey describes the Warrnambool and District league football season as one of his most enjoyable yet.
With his fourth-placed team sitting comfortable with a seven win, three loss record, the Tigers coach said the evenness of the competition - particularly within the top five - was making for an entertaining spectacle.
"I said to the boys, it's been the most enjoyable year on that front in a long time, just in the fact you've got to bring that consistency with your mindset or you'll be rolled," he told The Standard.
"I think it'll only be better for the league and better for the performances each week when you've got to come and play.
"It's exciting, but your preparation needs to be precise - all the top five sides are different in their own unique way and I'm sure each team's got things they get right and if they don't they understand what they are."
The top-five - Nirranda, Panmure, Russells Creek, Merrivale and Kolora-Noorat - is currently separated by just eight points - and while Sobey says it's an open race for the premiership, the stark improvement is being felt across the board.
It's been the most enjoyable year on that front in a long time, just in the fact you've got to bring that consistency with your mindset or you'll be rolled.- Josh Sobey
"I think each week we're looking at the draw, you're not sure which way certain games will go, but I think it bats a bit deeper than the top five to be honest," he said.
"South Rovers have had a rough start to the season due to injuries, COVID and illness but are improving, but I'm seeing real improvement in the other teams, Dennington is on the rise, Timboon is obviously struggling a bit but Allansford can kick a score too, so it's the way you want it to be honest.
"In the past, it's been your top one or two and maybe a third, and history suggests fifth hasn't been too great in the league, but Kolora have a great team and will be dangerous in finals.
"It's tight, and you've just got to keep winning and giving yourself a chance."
Sobey said his group - coming off a barnstorming win against Timboon Demons - had more gears to go to in the second half of the season.
"You sort of base that on what's happening behind the scenes and I'm quite confident as a group we're going in the right direction," he said.
"We've got the right leaders in place at the football club to get better this season - you don't want to lose personnel but we're fortunate we've got depth there within the list and injuries, COVID and illness have provided plenty of opportunities for some guys."
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