Nearly seven years since they last played a match, the Gordon Highlanders are set to make a return to the George Tooke Shield.
John Sykes, local coach and umpire, has led the charge to rebuild the last of Goulburn's pub teams, and is excited to see what his young squad can put together in 2020 under his tutelage.
"We've been talking about [rebuilding the Highlanders] on and off for a couple of years," Sykes said.
"I've got four kids who work for me who want to play together. It's an opportunity for them to play together."
The Highlanders finished the 2013 season with dwindling numbers, which led to the announcement in early 2014 that they would not register a team with the CRRL.
At the time, former Highlanders captain and coach, Michael Brown, explained that "a lot of the blokes were getting old and pulled the pin, and a couple of the boys went to the Bulldogs."
This time around, the story is vastly different. The majority of the current Highlanders squad is made up of young, talented players, who Sykes is eager to help develop.
"We've got a core group of probably eight or ten kids all the same age," he said.
"We know what we've got to do, we've just got to go and play for each other."
The 2020 George Tooke Shield will get underway on July 25 with a four-team competition. The other three teams will be the Bungendore Tigers, the Gunning Roos, and the University of Canberra.
Nine rounds will be played, with a grand final to follow between the top two sides.
Though the Highlanders are the newest team in the competition, Sykes said they are "not in it to run second".
"We're playing to win, we're going to play tough footy. We're going to use the ball and play good, strong, expansive football."
With roughly 18 confirmed players for the season, Sykes would ideally like 20 to round out the squad, and knows exactly what holes remain in the team makeup.
"We're actively seeking a couple more players in the next week or so," he said.
"We need a big body in the middle - a front rower - and the other would be a classy outside back.
"Just one more smart fella out the back will top it off."
The last time Sykes coached a senior side was in 2018, when he guided the Goulburn Stockmen Women's Tackle team to victory in the Katrina Fanning Shield.
Under his guidance, the Goulburn women developed a precise, uncompromising style which, combined with their ruthless physicality, made them a formidable prospect.
With a similarly young and eager Highlanders outfit this year, Sykes is aiming to create the same mentality.
"Just play tough, no tries, defence wins matches," he said.
"We've got enough skill to score tries, but the goal for me is to keep them scoreless every week. I'd rather win 4-0 than 28-24."
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