THE 2020 Group Seven Rugby League season will present a fresh start for the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas, after the recent appointment of their first grade co-coaches.
Club stalwarts Troy Grant and Neil Farmilo - who is also the club president - will take over the top job from Hans Schuster and Craig Stapleton, who guided the Cec Glenolmes Oval based side to the semi-finals in 2019.
"After doing the under 18s, alongside Neil [Farmilo], the past four years - including winning the competition last year - people around the club encouraged me to put my name forward to coach," Grant said.
"Then when it was announced Neil and I had the role, I was really excited to take on that next challenge in my coaching career."
Grant first got involved with the Gorillas as a 12-year-old and has now spent more than 30 years there - including winning two first grade premierships in 1995 and 1997.
It was during this time Grant first met Farmilo, who actually coached him in the under 13s and 14s.
"Neil and I have always had a great relationship," he said.
"From when he coached me in juniors, to playing alongside him when I came into grade as a 19-year-old, we've always just clicked.
"Then a chance meeting at touch footy four years ago led to him helping me with the under 18s sides during the past couple of seasons.
"Neil, Greg Hooper and Jason Hughes are all the heartbeat of the club and are amazing to work with - they epitomise what it means to be a Gorilla."
It's this respect and pride in the blue and gold jersey that makes Grant believe they are the perfect duo to take the Gorillas forward.
"I believe I'll bring enthusiasm to the role - which is something we've lacked the past couple of seasons, especially at training," the 43-year-old said.
"It's been a quiet couple of years for the first grade squad, largely due to their relaxed approach to training I believe - which sometimes trickled into game day.
"We want to instil a work ethic and comradery that Gorillas teams of the past have prided themselves on."
As well as that, Grant has a style of play in mind for his troops.
"Obviously Warilla has always been known for their physical play up the middle, which will be the same this season with Aaron Henry, Lloyd Thomas, Guy Rosewarn and Jake Goody leading the pack," he said.
"But this year, we want to add in a bit more flair in attack at the end of sets, which was non-existent at times last season."
A large chunk of that flair is expected to come from halves Jake Brisbane (Albion Park-Oak Flats) and Blair Grant (the son of Troy), who are both returning to Group Seven after spending time with the St George Illawarra Dragons Jersey Flegg squad.
Other key additions to the squad are Dean Hodgson, who returns to the club after two seasons at Windang and Gorillas junior Sam Hooper, who is back after a stint with the Canberra Raiders under 20s side.
These four, plus a host of under 18s making the step up into grade, should fill the void left by Schuster (Shellharbour), Kayne Brennan (Gerringong) and reigning Michael Cronin Medallist (Jamberoo).
"There will be a fair few young guys in the team, mixed in with those experienced forwards, but we won't be putting too much pressure on them," Grant said.
"They are a smart bunch of kids, who we hope to build around for years to come - I have no doubt they can lead us to where we want to be."
Related content:Henderson signs on to help Magpies soar again
That is ultimately a first grade premiership but Grant hasn't set the expectations that high in 2020.
"Whenever you pull on that Gorillas jersey, finals football is expected and this year is no different," he said.
"Making the top five is our first goal and then we will go from there.
"If we improve each week, like I know we are capable of, I'm sure we can ruffle some feathers come finals time."
In 2020, Ryan Hodgson and Scott Morris are also on the Gorillas coaching staff, taking care of the club's reserve grade side.