It’s been a long road for Turvey Park.
There’s been some lean years down at Maher Oval over the past decade and for the longest time it was merely the promise of youth that kept hope afloat.
Coach Michael Mazzocchi came aboard with the intention of harnessing that youth, cultivating an environment in which it can flourish, and ultimately see it bear fruit in the games that matter most.
Half way through the 2021 season and those expectations remain the unchanged.
“The goal has always been to play finals and that’s still a really achievable goal for us.” Mazzocchi said.
After years of building themselves from the ground up, the Bulldogs now sit just one game outside the top five and staring down the barrel of a very winnable home tilt against Griffith.
While finals football appears more attainable now than in any other time in recent memory, the first year coach is still lamenting an inconsistent start to the season.
“We’ve lost three games under three goals but I have no doubt in my mind that we can turn that around,” he said.
You always rue your close losses and we’re probably a win off where we would have liked to have been a pass mark for this stage of the season.”
Mazzocchi’s mentality is one that lends itself to modern day footballers.
There are lessons to be learned in every game and football is a lot more a process than four points.
But some takeaways hit harder than others, and never was that more evident than after last week’s loss to rivals Wagga Tigers.
“I think we only had 31 tackles for the game and you’re never going to win a game of footy with that,” he said.
“The loss against the Tigers is probably the one we’ll learn the most from.
Our pressure dropped as did the defensive side of the game, and it really doesn’t matter how good you are on the attacking end if you’re playing like that.”
But goals win games, and the Bulldogs coach freely admits that at the moment, they aren’t even close to scoring enough.
Much of that can be attributed to unfortunate absence of gun forwards Brad Ashcroft and Mitch Ward, whom have managed just a handful games between them.
“Brad and Mitch are crucial.
Mitch has done a couple hamstrings and has only played around four games, and Brad has only played one game and kicked five goals.
We’ve seen snippets of how good they can be and we have some pretty classy smaller forwards like Tyler Cunningham and Baxter Wallett to hopefully pair with them in the back end of the year.”
The Bulldogs march to long awaited September footy begins this weekend.
A slip up against the Griffith Swans could make finals a long shot, but Mazzocchi believes his team is well equipped and mentally ready to avoid a boil over.
“They’re one of the better 1 and 6 teams you’re going to see.
You only have to look back a few weeks where they should have beaten Coolamon to say they’re a good team in a year that’s really proving to be one of the most even in recent years.”
Time will tell if the Dogs will finally have their day.