THIRTY-FOUR years of blood, sweat and tears went into Kiama's 2019 Group Seven first grade premiership.
"Last season was one I'll never forget," Clarke said.
"The majority of this group had been together for more than five years, including those two heartbreaking grand final losses, and thoroughly deserved that premiership.
"Not just them but everyone in the Knights' community who had waited a long time between drinks - that title was for you.
"But that was last year and we are now focused on carrying that titles' momentum into 2020."
Clarke's troops began their pre-season in January - heavily disrupted by the bushfires, smoke and floods - including an appearance in the final of the Wests Nines.
"All the boys pretty much picked up training from where we left off last year - they didn't miss a beat," he said.
"Last year's premiership has given the whole group confidence the style we play with works - it's all about building on it.
"We are definitely further along this year than we were this time last season."
That style of play Clarke alludes to was tweaked after the Knights' disappointing loss to Warilla-Lake South on July 7.
"I gave the boys' a rocket after that game and it worked, as we went on to win the next nine games, including the grand final," he said.
"We swapped the positions of Kieran Poole and Toby Nobes, as well as Dylan Morris and Tom Atkins and started playing a style unlike anyone else in the competition.
"With Koo [Poole] playing in the halves earlier in his career, we thought he would give us another dimension at lock - he allows Cam [Vazzoler], Dylan and Tom more time to look up and play what is in front of them, instead of concentrating so much on running plays.
"He gives us that fourth playmaking option that not many teams have and he showed just how good he can be in that role in the grand final, where I thought he was our man of the match.
"Moving Dylan to fullback allows him more freedom to run and attack, especially down that left edge - while Tom can be more measured with his decisions on the right.
"Then shifting Toby to the right edge, opposite Tom [Angel], we now have hard-hitting back-rowers on either side."
Speaking on Angel, who finished just behind Warilla's Daniel Burke in the Michael Cronin Medal voting, Clarke believes he can take his game to another level again this season.
"In his first full season back from the [St George Illawarra] Dragons, Tom quite literally hit the ground running," Clarke said.
"It seemed like every time he touched the ball, something exciting happened.
"He quickly proved why I believe he is one of the best players in the competition and I know he can get even better this season.
"His combination with Dylan on that left edge will be huge for us this season and I can't wait to see what they come up with."
While the red and blacks have retained most of last year's premiership side, Lachie Farrell, Ethan Ford and Tasman Gilmore have all move on - with the latter returning to Helensburgh.
But Kiama junior Matt Cornell has returned to the castle, after a year away with the navy.
It's because of this, Clarke is confident his side can be right up there again this year.
"After last year's grand final, I said to the boys 'one premiership is good but two's even better' and that's been driving the boys this pre-season," he said.
"We won't be directly talking about going back-to-back though - we know there's plenty of hard work ahead of us and if we are good enough, that will come."
Clarke also dismissed the notion the boys wouldn't be as driven this season.
"I won three straight premierships with Wests Illawarra (2009, '10 and '11) and Mary [Paul McGregor] did a great job keeping us motivated, which will be what Marc Laird and I will have to do this season," he said.
"Don't get me wrong, we had a great team at Wests during that span, with plenty of former under 20s and high-level players but we also had guys like Greg Reh, Aaron Hertsch and myself who had been there a long time and endured a lot of losing early in our careers.
"It's comparable to the likes of Tom [Atkins], Matt and Dylan Morris and Koo, who didn't have much success during their earlier years in first grade - they'd never actually seen Kiama win a competition before.
"The group, who are very tight-knit, know how much last year's win meant to everyone in the town and I know they're going to go to another level this season, for the club they love."
Unfortunately, Clarke and his troops' season kick-off on April 5 against Jamberoo has been suspended until at least May, because of the coronavirus epidemic.
"It's disappointing we won't get to start our title defence the way we would have liked but there are bigger issues going on in the world right now than footy," Clarke said.
"Until we get the go-ahead with the season, the boys know the onus is on them to stay fit and strong.
"Whenever we do start playing, I'm confident we have a group that can compete with anyone in the competition."