BRANDON Mathews believes the Griffith Swans' back-to-basics approach this pre-season will pay dividends as the club looks to mark its centenary with an assault on the Riverina Football League's top five.
After starting pre-season training back in mid-November, the Swans have been quietly slaving away at the Exies back ovals twice a week, with a narrow focus on the fundamentals of football - skills and fitness.
"There's probably been a fair bit more of that," an unapologetic Mathews said.
"I made a point of doing it that way because that was the area that needed a bit of work.
"That's not having a go at anyone in the past, that's just where it's at.
"We started pre-season a bit early this year - but we had to."
Compared to other RFL clubs, it's been a very quiet off-season for Griffith on the back of last season's seventh-placed finish, with few comings or goings and very little paper talk.
But that's just the way Mathews - an Ovens and Murray League veteran of more than 200 games - likes it.
He said the players themselves are starting to feel the benefit of their hard work with the entire club desperate to make a splash in the Swans' 100th year.
"The running we've been doing, it's been tough. It's solid. But there's noone saying they can't do it," Mathews said.
"It's not just me saying they're getting better - they can actually see it.
"I think the boys know now with the year it is and the disappointment from last year, they're thinking 'geez, we've got to do something, we can't keep missing out on percentage all the time'.
"Just because they've done a bit of running and they've practiced their kicking, it doesn't mean it's just going to happen for them - but everyone's on the right track."
Mathews revealed the Swans are closing in on three new players who he said were "pretty likely" to join the club.
Two are based in Darwin while one is a ruckman from Adelaide the club has been chasing since last year.
"Hopefully that all falls into place, but it's looking pretty positive. It's taken long enough," he said.
"There's enough good players around here that you don't have to be bringing in bags of players.
"The unfortunate thing from last year was the ones that came to town were all smaller or medium-sizers - there were no big blokes.
"It doesn't matter where you play or what the standard is, you've got to have big blokes."
Griffith's only big loss is John Evans, who has switched to Farrer League club Coleambally.
Mathews said he was confident the same Swans squad can better last year's output of four wins - provided injuries do not intervene.
The club's first trial match is looming large, with Hume League outfit Rand-Walbundrie to visit Exies Oval on March 15, before games against Lake Cargelligo and Coleambally.
"Hopefully we can have some success this year or play a final, but the boys have to realise there's nothing for nothing - you have to do the work," Mathews said.
"That's part of learning, and that's why guys who've been at successful clubs come and train the way they train.
"We've got to get that winning culture going."