The desire to repay coach Zack Pleming's faith in him is driving Aydan Nowak on to even greater efforts at Wodonga Saints.
At the age of 22, the midfielder has already played more than 150 games for the club and has just recommitted for another two years at Les Cheesley Oval.
The Saints may have lost 13 games by an average of 109 points this season but there's nowhere Nowak would rather be.
"The club means so much to me," he said.
"There's been so many times I've wanted to pack my stuff and go but every year I sign back on and it's all love.
"A few years ago, everyone was playing as individuals but now, with 'Plem' behind the wheel, it's a lot more team-oriented footy, a lot of people are getting to training and everyone wants to get the club moving.
"We're only losing by 60 points here and there, actually playing some good quality football which is another reason I stayed."
Pleming was recently reappointed as Saints coach for 2023 and several of his players have been quick to follow.
"I'd die for the bloke," Nowak said.
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"He's my cousin but he's also been one of the most influential leaders in my life.
"He's done a lot for me.
"We went to America together and I came back a little bit heavy so I decided to go on a weight loss program and ended up losing almost 20 kilos.
"I started hitting the gym with 'Plem' and he's shaped me into the player he wanted me to be.
"I was already an average footballer but my footy's getting serious now and it's taking me places.
"'Plem' is a lot more mature than I am and in certain situations in my life, he's been there to guide me through and he's shaped my footy career, for sure.
"I was playing fringe ones and twos in midfield but now, with the weight gone, I can just feel the engine room going a lot better.
"A lot of players have signed on just because he's the coach and we want to help him succeed."
Wodonga Saints host Mitta United on Saturday before rounding out their season with games against Thurgoona and Tallangatta.
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