Illawarra Lions player-coach Dave Nolen says his team remains a finals contender.
His comment came after the Lions ended a four-game losing streak on Saturday with a hard-fought 16-point victory over Penrith at North Dalton Park.
The Lions improved to a 3-5 win-loss record, by completing the home and away double over the Rams, with an 11.4 (70) to 8.6 (54) win.
The sluggish hosts trailed by 13 points at quarter-time but responded with their best quarter of the season, kicking six goals to one, for a 16-point lead at half-time.
The Lions extended their advantage to 21 points at three-quarter time before they had to withstand a late Penrith fightback.
"The second term was really good footy, our best of the season," Nolen said.
"We started pretty slowly but once we got into our stride, started working hard, we got our rewards.
"They came at us in the last quarter but it was really encouraging how we responded to the pressure, maintained our composure and worked the clock down."
After several injury-ravaged weeks, another positive for the seventh-placed Lions was finishing the match virtually injury free, with Nolen to have almost a full list to select from for the clash with second-placed Pennant Hills on Saturday week.
Nolen believes that more competition for spots, and players forced to impress on the training track, meant there is a greater desire among players to make a run for the finals.
"The boys know if we want success we have to work hard for it. It won't just come. But when our attitude is right, we're a good footy team and showed it against Penrith," he said.
"We need to be more consistent but the signs are positive. Everyone is following the game plan and working hard for each other."
Nolan said teenage defender Christos Panagakos keeps improving and had his best game of the season against Penrith, while Peter Lloyd's leadership was a difference maker.
Chris Cook kicked three goals as the Lions kicked 11 goals from 15 scoring shots.
The Sydney AFL First Division has a bye for the holiday long weekend, with the Lions returning in a critical away clash against Pennant Hills on June 14.
"We'll show Pennant Hills what a good side we are," Nolen said.
"The finals are still a real possibility. I know we are capable of going on a good run from here and stringing some wins together."