As reigning premiers of the Highlands Soccer Association's All Age Women Premier League division, many expected the Goulburn Stags to continue their dominant form in 2021.
But the Stags themselves were less confident.
A slew of new players in the side and new teams in the division left the Goulburn women unsure of how they would perform.
In the first round of the competition, a tight loss to the current table-toppers, Robertson Maroon, did not clarify the issue.
However, in the four rounds since that game, the Stags have gone undefeated and climbed to third on the ladder.
"We thought we'd take quite a while to get our groove back - we lost a couple of good players last year," Stags midfielder and coach, Donna Eddy, said.
"We've got 19 players this year, and everybody seems to have gelled quite nicely."
After a 2-1 defeat in the first round, Goulburn has since scored 18 more goals and conceded just four. With four wins and just the lone loss, they are equal on points with second-placed Moss Vale, but one behind on the for-and-against differential.
Scarily, these stats have the potential to get even more lopsided as the season goes on. Should the turnout to training sessions improve, Eddy believes the sky is the limit for the Stags.
"Training is a big thing for us," she said.
"Because most of our players are mums, once it gets a bit colder and the kids are sick, [attendance drops]. To get as many players to training as we can would be wonderful, that would be a game-changer for us."
Culture the biggest factor working in the team's favour. Come game day, Eddy believes, her side's desire to win is what gives them the edge over most opponents.
"On the day, everyone's very committed," she said.
"Everybody gives 100 per cent, whether they're one of the new ones at 15 years old, or whether it's one of the older players. It's sheer determination to win.
"We've got a good, strong team core, and we've gained a couple of players that we had two years ago with us when we were in Canberra, they've joined us again this year.
"And we've got to fight for our spot. Even me, as coach, I've got to fight for my position, because there's two other players that can play as well as me in midfield."
With a competition-wide bye scheduled for this weekend due to the Queen's Birthday, the Stags will next take to the field on Saturday, June 19 against Bowral at Cookbundoon from 3pm.
This will be the first clash of the weekend, with another match to follow on Sunday, June 20, against Crookwell in Crookwell from 1pm.
With Crookwell and Bowral ranked eighth and tenth on the ladder respectively, the Stags go in to both matches as favourites.
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