Charlie Morrison can feel something special building at the Wodonga Bulldogs.
The former Benalla defender, 25, is gearing up for his second season of Ovens and Murray football and believes the club is on the brink of breaking into the league's upper echelons.
Wodonga won four games last year and is expected to improve again after a strong recruitment drive.
"Last year was a big stepping stone and this year, again, is going to be another massive stepping stone - especially with the signings we've got now," Morrison said.
"All the young kids are staying on, bar a few, so I'm really looking forward to it.
"There's a very good atmosphere.
"Training's been electric, everything's been second to none.
"We know there's something coming so everyone's very excited.
"We're all hungry and we know we can make finals.
"We know that a couple of teams have dropped off who were in the middle half but a lot of the teams have got stronger too.
"We're hoping to be one of the stronger sides."
Morrison played 12 of the 13 games completed last year before COVID forced a premature end to proceedings and is determined to raise his own game further in 2022.
"I only came here last year so I've tried to step into a bit of a leadership role," he said.
"It took a while to get people's trust but I think I've got that now, so I'm ready to go to the next level.
"I'll play full-back, somewhat a general role, and I'm looking forward to another year of that.
"In the first year, if you work hard and put yourself out there, people are going to respect you.
"I've always had a large voice and a big character so it's a good time to step up.
"I'm 26 in a few days so I'm getting to a point where I can start shovelling off a bit of my knowledge to the younger kids.
Morrison wore a wry smile as he discussed the growing intensity of pre-season under coach Jordan Taylor.
"I do love certain parts of it, as hard as it is," he said.
"I love coming together with all the boys, especially after a long day at work, and grinding it out.
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"I'm coming into the better part of my career, especially playing in the O and M.
"I want to be a more solid one-on-one player.
"I want to be a player who forwards hate to go on because they know what they're going to face for the day.
"That's my challenge because I don't want to get over-run.
"It's 100 percent psychological for me.
"If someone gets me early, it's hard to come back but that's a battle I've got to face, get the first quarter over and done with and get them from there."
Wodonga starts the season away to Albury on Saturday April 9.
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