When speaking about his side's 5-2 win over Central on Saturday, Goulburn Geckos co-captain Jake Staines gave one reason for his team's victory.
"Dean Evans had blood on his knuckles and knees [by the end of the match], because any time the ball was spilt he was diving for it," Staines said.
Evans' effort, he reasoned, was representative of the all-or-nothing attitude Goulburn brought to their first home game of the season, in which Staines said they came in as underdogs.
"From the beginning, I always knew it was going to be competitive," he said.
"We've got a fairly young side, and they've got an experienced side and I thought they might have the number on us. I knew it would be tough, I wasn't expecting to win. I went in thinking they had the better side on paper."
The key difference between the two sides, Staines said, was Goulburn's knack of winning the 50-50 contests. These proved crucial on Saturday, in a match which was much closer than the scorecard indicated.
After an early tussle, Central scored the first goal with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Goulburn responded less than two minutes later, and maintained control of the majority of play throughout the match. Both sides traded goals up until the third quarter, by the end of which the Geckos were leading 3-2.
It was only in the final period that the home side managed to pull away, and Staines praised the youngsters in the team for excelling in a high-pressure match.
"I had two young blokes, Wil Backhouse and Jack McEntee, I told them at the beginning of the game that they'll get minimal minutes because you're so young, they're around 15," he said.
"It just turned out that everyone was having a red-hot crack and those young blokes got on and made some pretty good touches.
"They'll make big steps forward in the coming weeks, because they weren't scared in the big game and they got some good touches."
Staines also praised the efforts of another youngster in the side, Dylan Downey, who played with composure beyond his years.
"Dylan's only 15 as well, but the size and the smooth technique he's got playing hockey fits in really well," Staines said.
"Anytime he got the ball, he didn't panic ... it was smart hockey from him. I was nowhere near that at 15, and it showed how mature he is.
"He played well above his age group, and because he's got that size and technique, we can include him in the big moments. He's got an important role in the defensive and attaching penalty corners."
The energy brought to the Geckos by the younger players has contributed mightily to the team's bright start to 2020, which Staines was preparing to write off at one point when the lockdown was in full effect.
"COVID was a massive dampener on the season, and when it hit we had a meeting to ask where everyone is at, whether they want to play or pull the pin," he said.
"Even with that meeting we only just had enough [support] to pull a side.
"To be honest, I didn't have high expectations at all. I was just happy to field a side and look to next year. I think everyone changed their mind about two or three weeks out from the start of the competition, and things started to look promising.
"My expectations have gone from not much to possibly top four prospects towards the end of the year."
The team's determination to reach the finals has also been boosted by their failure to make the grand final in 2019, for the first time in five years.
"It makes you want to prove that it was just a one-off, because the five years prior to that we'd made the grand final," Staines said. "We've only been in the comp for those five years and that was the one year we haven't made it."
This weekend will be Goulburn's sternest challenge yet, as they take on United in Canberra. Just like the Geckos, United have begun the season with three wins, and Staines knows this Saturday's match will likely be their toughest yet.
"They've got half a dozen really handy blokes in United," he said.
"They have Kiel Brown, who's an ex-Kookaburra, and a few young blokes up front who are rockets and can score goals. It's definitely not going to be easy."
The match between Goulburn and United will take place on Saturday, August 1 from 3.15pm at Kjar Field.
While you're with us...
Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up here.