Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs rugby league coach Andy Lynch likes what he is seeing at the moment.
The Bulldogs are throwing themselves into their pre-season training and are eyeing off a successful Group Seven Rugby League campaign in 2024.
"Everyone has come back in real good shape," Lynch said about the early fitness and health of his players.
"There is a bit of confidence around the place - compared to this time last year."
The Bulldogs were the big improvers last season and did well to come back from a few years of uncertainty.
Coach Lynch said the players also had self-belief about what they could achieve this year, which stems from season 2023.
Not many people thought the Bulldogs would reach the semi-finals but the Mollymook-based team had a strong end to the season in 2023 and charged into the semi-finals.
The 37-30 loss to Nowra Bomaderry Jets in last season's elimination final gives the Bulldogs even more incentive to do even better in 2024.
"Last season was a bit of a building block for us and we have got to keep on improving," Lynch said.
"We can't worry about everyone else and week in and week-out our focus needs to be all about us. We want to keep on getting better and better."
Lynch is all about club spirit and keeping the playing group happy.
He said you get the best out of your players when they are happy to attend training and take part in club functions.
The Bulldogs mentor is also big on the one club approach and likes having all grades [women's tackle, league tag, first/reserve grade and under 18s] all training together.
Luckily, the Bulldogs, pretty much, will field the same side in season 2024 - some players have moved on, due to things like junior representative commitments, but others have signed on.
The Bulldogs also "have kids here waiting" for their opportunity to impress, according to the coach.
"If they are good enough - they are old enough and I want to give them the opportunity to impress," he said.
"I am excited and I can't wait," he said about the fast-approaching season.
"I know the lads better now than I did last year and so I can test them a little more than I did last year and push them to the limits - really."
Lynch hopes his players can learn from him - he is also happy to learn from them.
"I am happy to learn all the time and if any of the players can point me in the right direction about what we should do at training or in games then I am quite happy to listen to what they say," he said.
The Bulldogs have trial matches planned against Oran Park on March 2 and Helensburgh on March 8.
"It's going to be good and really interesting," Lynch said about the trial matches.
The Milton Ulladulla Times also spoke to last year's captain Blake Mackey, who will most likely lead the team in 2024.
The Bulldogs on-field leader had some interesting things to say - so watch this space.