IN any sport, success is the one element that everyone strives for but is extremely hard to come by.
But that hasn't been the case for the Gerringong Lions under 16s side.
Since teaming up in under 10s in 2014, this Lions side has only lost five games and drawn two, on their way to seven straight Group Seven premierships.
Making that even more special is that 15 of the group that started in under 6s (when there were two sides) are still playing to this day.
"I can still remember when Dave [Ward] and I first started coaching them in under 6s and the thing that stood out to me was their commitment to improving, as well as the camaraderie among the group," Lions co-coach John Ford said.
"Both groups were formidable early on and when we combined the two sides in under 10s, it all just clicked and the boys haven't looked back since - both of us coaches are super proud."
The squad, who also won the WG Buckley Shield with Kiama High School in 2018, capped off their junior careers by scoring 372 points and only conceding 30 in this year.
And despite not playing finals, due to COVID-19, finished the season undefeated on top of the ladder, which included a 42-nil win against second-placed Collegians.
"Although this year has been tough, just like in years past, the boys stuck together," Ford said.
"Their ability to play for one another and not as individuals is what sets them apart from the rest.
"Throughout the years, there's been numerous times where the boys have fallen behind and their backs have been against the wall but they just stayed calm and were confident in each others ability and got the job done as a team.
"It's for this reason why most of them are destined for great things on the rugby league field, be that in Lions colours or for higher honours."
This season, the Lions squad consisted of Wesley Pring, Beauden Anderson, Balunn Simon, Liam Holland, Braxton Doherty, Ashton Ward, Taj Ford, Kane Graham, Noah Morphett, Jack Quine, Dylan Egan, Bailey Sassall, Hamish Stewart, Harrison Wicks, Zac Gillett, Callum Roberts, Drew Hallett, Ayden Curl, Kyan McCallum and Bradley Good.
If you look through that team list, the squad is littered with names synonymous with the club, such as Quine, Ford, Ward and Stewart.
"There's no doubt there's strong family tradition in this group, with most of these boys being around the senior team from a young age," Ford said.
"I know Taj Ford and Hamish Stewart have been watching the first grade train since 2009 and that has had a huge impact on them.
"All those names have produced plenty of success for the club and I'm sure they will do the same, if not better."
Nathan Ford teaches most of the squad at Kiama High School, as well as current first grade stars Tim Moore and Rixon Russell who are role models for this group.
Read more: 2020 Group Seven team of the year revealed
That trio, along with the likes of Peter and Pat Cronin, Brad Davidson, Michael Brown and Joel Roberts, were all involved in the Lions' last golden generation, who from 2010 to 2016, played in six first grade grand finals - winning four of them.
"All our boys idolise the current crop of first graders," Ford said.
"It's great they can interact with one another at the training ground and gym, because they all want to play first grade one day and win premierships for the club, just like Nathan, Tim and Rixon have."
With their junior career in the books, the under 16s will now transition in the under 18s competition, which Ford believes will be their toughest challenge yet.
"As happy as everyone is with our success, we are already looking forward to the next challenge, which speaks volumes about the group," Ford, who will have 14 of his squad trialing for the Illawarra Steelers' Harold Matts (under 17s) side in the coming weeks, said.
"And whatever happens to this group in the coming years, both on and off the field, I'm sure this whole experience, which has seen them all create an amazing friendship, will set them up for future successes."
To make the Lions under 18s even stronger in the coming years, their current under 15s side also has four premierships to their names.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.