By Justin Flynn
Ocean Grove captain Jake Wilkie believes his side has what it takes to play finals this season.
The 24-year-old midfielder said there was a feeling of optimism within the group, but that they were also mindful of the bigger picture.
Ocean Grove sits in fifth spot on the BFL ladder, a game clear of Drysdale after eight rounds.
“Finals would be the aim,” Wilkie said.
“Once you’re in finals, anything that happens from there is a bonus. But for us it’s more of a three- to five-year plan.
“We’re pretty confident that on our day we can match it with anyone.”
Ocean Grove had a huge player turnover from the side that finished ninth in 2019 and has invested in a youth policy that appears to be paying off.
Grove won the 2019 under-19s premiership and so far that team has produced several senior players that have impressed this season.
“We backed the youth in at the start of the year and the shift has been pretty clear to see,” Wilkie said.
“It shows we are a young group but we are developing pretty fast. We are learning something each week and each week is a challenge.”
Wilkie said the win against Barwon Heads in round five that snapped an 11-game losing streak against their fierce rivals gave the group confidence.
The Grubbers found themselves down by three or four goals several times throughout the game, but reeled the deficit in each time and pulled away to win by 11 points in front of a huge Barwon Heads crowd.
“That was a pretty big day for the club,” Wilkie said.
“We were competitive against Modda and Torquay, they are pretty good sides. To go over there, the belief you get from a win like that does a lot for a young group.
“It’s probably one of the best games I’ve been involved in.”
Wilkie said the playing group was enjoying the feeling surrounding the club this season.
“We are a community club,” he said.
“The supporter base, it’s so great seeing all the old blokes back at the club and all the community support.
“We feed off it. After the games all the supporters in the rooms and people jumping on board.”
Wilkie said that although Torquay remains the side to beat this season, Ocean Grove will continue to try and control what it can control.
“Internally we knew we were a lot better side than everyone else gave us credit for,” he said.
“Consistency – we play good quarters of footy and we have quarters where we let teams in. We’ll keep showing up and improving.
“The young blokes, they’ve shown something each game. One of them will take a quarter by the scruff of the neck and say ‘I belong here’.”