COBDEN footballer Tom Spokes feels the Bombers are about to take flight.
The forward, at 30, is one of the elder statesmen in the Bombers' youth-laden team.
Spokes, who will play his 100th Hampden league senior game against Koroit on Saturday, has noticed significant improvement across the first 13 games of the 2022 season.
Cobden remains in finals calculations with five rounds to play.
It sits two games behind Warrnambool - a team in plays on the run home - in fifth spot.
"The most encouraging sign is probably the younger fellas," he said.
"Most of them are about 20 to 24 and have taken the next step in their football and we're seeing some results.
"We're not getting smashed every week. I think we've only lost by 100 points once this year and we've been very competitive in our losses.
"We haven't laid down and let teams roll over us in the last quarter.
"The boys are pushing right through to the end of the game and fighting the game out. We're showing a bit of maturity which is good to see."
Spokes, along with cousin Jack Hutt, is providing a steadying influence in the Bombers' forward 50.
He's kicked 14 goals from 11 games but his focus is on guiding his young teammates.
"We haven't got the taller blokes that we have had in past years to play forward so I have to play the centre-half-forward, high high-forward role," Spokes said.
"I am trying to get a score on the board and making sure our forward line pressure is up and getting the young boys to know their roles and make sure they're pushing up and pushing back."
Hutt, who has kicked 20 goals in seven games despite playing with a significant ACL injury, is providing leadership from full-forward, according to Spokes.
"He is passionate about the club, very vocal and he wants to get the best out of everyone and he wears his heart on his sleeve whenever he runs out," he said.
"He's good to play with and always voices his opinion of what he sees.
"He has a smart head on him; a good football brain."
Spokes' journey to 100 senior games in red and black has been a long time coming.
The Camperdown-based plumber made his senior debut for Cobden in 2010.
He returned to Colac and District club Simpson, where he played his junior football, for a few seasons and has also had two shoulder reconstructions which have stalled his games' tally.
Spokes, who is in the process of buying land and building a house with his partner, spends his summers playing lawn bowls.
He was part of City Memorial Red's division one Western District Playing Area flag earlier this year, helping down Dunkeld in a thrilling grand final at Terang.
He said there were similarities between his two sporting choices despite them looking world's apart.
"You're always involved in the game playing bowls and footy," Spokes said.
"Playing division one bowls, it's very competitive.
"Bowls is not very physical but the older blokes hate losing to the young fellas.
"They get a bit serious but I don't mind that, it's enjoyable."
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