Temora coach Jake Wooden wishes his final season in charge of the Kangaroos wasn't panning out this way but says it won't overshadow fond memories of his five years at the club.
The Kangaroos are on the lookout for a new coach for just the third time in a decade, with Wooden letting them know early in the year that this would be his final season at the helm.
"I've enjoyed my time at Temora. It's a great club," Wooden said.
"The sad thing is the way it's finishing off really. This year's been pretty hard right across the park, with numbers and that we haven't had a win yet.
"To finish my term at the 'Roos this way is not ideal but I understand that's how it goes and that's the position we're in.
"But I've enjoyed it and made a lot of friends. It's a great club to be a part of. I've been very lucky."
In the first three seasons under Wooden, Temora were a top four team each year, and won at least one final every year, for a record of 37 wins and 19 losses (including four finals wins and losses).
The highlight was taking the club to grand final in 2017. But it's also the hardest part. Losing by less than a kick to Marrar remains a bitter pill to swallow nearly four years on.
"It's hard to pinpoint one thing (I'm most proud of). The first year I came across, to lose that grand final, that's still hard to take. It always will be when we came so close, four points we got done by, but that's football and life," Wooden said.
"We had a lot of good footballers, obviously the Canberra line topping your team up makes a huge a difference and the players around that all grow a couple of inches taller.
"But it's the boys efforts to never give up that I've loved. And that's the same this year, we're not giving up."
Now 33, Wooden had intended to finish up as coach last year but went again after the season went up in smoke.
So far, it's been eight straight losses for a team on the back foot after their 2020 recruits were unable to re-join for 2021 and a lack of depth has been exposed by a big injury toll.
"I've enjoyed it from day dot and I'm still enjoying it this year, even though we're not winning," Wooden said.
He's enjoyed seeing young players like Will Reinhold develop as well as Rob Krause, Isaac Reardon and Gus McRae come into their own as senior footballers who represent the future of the club.
"There's a big core group of young blokes standing up, and consistently in our best, and the responsibility this year has really gone up another notch for them because we're relying on them a lot more to play a bigger role," he said.
Wooden said he'll keep playing football for as long as he can. With a fourth child on the way, he said work and family commitments will dictate whether that's still in Temora next year.
The focus is on making the back half of this year better than the first nine weeks.
"Hopefully we can get a few wins because I'd hate to finish my time at the 'Roos coming last," he said.
"There's teams there that we can definitely beat once we get our full side back on the paddock. We've got two byes over the next three weeks so that will help us reload for the back half and hopefully we can upset a few teams."
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