CHRIS Jackson jokes he's "a better soldier than general".
After four years coaching East Wagga-Kooringal through the tough times he wants to take advantage of the good when the Hawks meet the Saints in the battle of east and north in Saturday's Farrer League grand final.
Jackson has won three first grade flags - one with Hay and two with Wagga Tigers, but is yet to tick one off with the Hawks.
He played in their losing grand finals in 2014 and 2015, but opted to play reserve grade in 2016 when they finally broke through against Coleambally.
The reserves also won the cup that day, but Jackson has bigger fish to fry this Saturday.
The 40-year-old looked in some doubt for the grand final after battling an achilles injury during the major semi win over the Saints a fortnight ago, but has declared himself "fit to go".
Jackson moved from the Tigers to Hawks to be their first grade coach in 2010, filling the role for four years.
The Hawks were struggling and in the midst of a rebuilding phase which ultimately bore fruit with Gavin McMahon coaching them to the 2016 flag, before current coach Matt Hard took over last year.
Jackson, 40, says he has no regrets about missing the 2016 premiership, adamant it was the right call to prolong his career.
"We lost two flags (grand finals) in a row and I was getting to an age where my body needed a break, I got halfway through the year and thought 'I don't want to play'," Jackson said.
"I needed to get away and rest myself. I've been playing senior footy since I was 13 or 14. I enjoyed playing in the twos, with blokes who turn up each week and battle away knowing they're not going to get a first grade game, but love the game.
"I wouldn't play the game if I didn't enjoy it, being 40 and still loving the game is pretty exciting."
Jackson doesn't hesitate when asked what's easier - coaching or playing.
He understates the impact he had with the clipboard, but club stalwarts speak glowingly of his contribution to the team's fortunes gradually turning around.
"They were very tough years, we had goals to improve the club and play finals every year, get the club moving in the right direction," Jackson said.
"Where we are now with our juniors (is great), Gav McMahon came in and took us to three grand finals and Matt Hard is continuing it. Apart from three or four of us (players), we have a pretty young list.
"The perfect word for it (coaching period) is a grind, but we knew there'd be a nice patch at the end and we got there.
"We've got the right people in the right places at the club and the sponsors, they do all the hard work and we just get to enjoy what they do.
"I've always said I'm a better soldier (player) than I was a general (coach)."
Fellow club stalwart and first grade teammate Brocke Argus said Jackson's efforts were huge in improving the club.
"It was a massive turning point for us, he brought a different structure and mindset to the club," Argus said.
"At the time we probably didn't have the money or resources that subsequent coaches here have had, or the player quality, but we still made finals every year and were thereabouts.
"He was probably one of the major turning points for the club. We weren't held in the highest regard by people when he first came, he was the starting point and and his four or so years of coaching turned the club around.
"The least he deserves is to go out with a flag, it would be unreal."
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