Where to from here?
Coolamon rightly entered 2020 as Riverina League premiership favourites.
Coolamon arguably entered the 2021 season as Riverina League premiership favourites.
Yet, despite the hype and high expectations, the Hoppers find themselves staring down the barrel of winning the same amount of silverware as a year in which they didn’t even compete.
Long story short, time is running out for the Hoppers to find form and find what made them a contender in the first place.
The additions of Jeremy Sykes and Matt Harpley made the already formidable side an even more dangerous proposition, and the on and off field coaching partnership of Jake Barrett and Mark Carroll had all the makings of a dynamic duo of premiership proportions.
But the club’s first flag in eight years couldn’t appear further away at the moment.
The Hoppers started the season 5-1 before having a round seven bye, but that hot start has had cold water poured on it in the weeks in the weeks that followed.
A 66-point loss to bitter rivals Ganmain in round eight was a warning sign that perhaps went unheeded considering the Hoppers bounced back with a 121-point win against Narrandera just a week later.
Since then, Coolamon’s sole win has come against three-win Leeton Whitton, with losses to finals bound teams Mangoplah, Wagga and Collingullie and even a defeat at the hands of the erratic Turvey Park Bulldogs.
A loss to the Tigers last week now sees Coolamon in a fight the finals themselves, not just the finals double chance.
Admittedly, Mark Carroll and Jake Barrett’s squad haven’t been blessed with availabilities.
First team contributors like Luke Gerhard, Anthony Atkin and Jeremy Sykes have managed just 19 games between them, meanwhile Gerard Okerenyang made his first-grade debut last week, the latest of many youngsters getting their shot at first grade footy as the club searches for consistency.
On the scoring side of things, much of the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of key forward Joe Redfern and attacking midfielder Jeremiah Maslin, who have kicked 60 goals between them so far this season.
But therein lies the problem.
After Redfern and Maslin, the next ten Hoppers on the goal kickers list have only managed to kick 59 goals combined.
A lack of forward line firepower part of why a club with such high aspirations finds themselves with a point differential of plus-63, yet routinely on the losing end of close contests this season.
So where to from here?
Coolamon still has a realistic shot at a finals double chance.
Two of their final three games are against the lowly Griffith and Narrandera. Sandwiched between those games is a guaranteed four points with a bye followed by one last chance to build momentum against rivals Ganmain.
The club has shown the ability to play good for pockets at a time, but when inconsistency is seemingly your only certainty, the team needs as many bites of the apple as it can come finals time.
You’d be mad to write them off, but where to from here, is anyone’s guess.