ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE
He's been forced to win over some of his squad, impressed the man who will patrol the opposition dugout and now stands one win away from a remarkable grand final triumph.
Ben Smith couldn't have planned for a better first season in charge of Bulli.
Stepping into the role vacated by former Socceroo Adrian Alston, the rookie clipboard-carrier is on the brink of delivering Bulli their first grand final victory since 1986.
But his possession-based philosophy has only been possible with the input of a young playing group who he said has made his transition into the coaching ranks a smooth one.
"I think that's definitely made it easier - no doubt," Smith said. "Some of the older guys were probably a bit [cautious], sitting back at the start seeing how things would go.
"There was a change in game style they probably had some reservations about. It took them a while to buy into what we were trying to do.
"[But] it certainly happened ... quickly and we haven't looked back since then."
So rapid has Smith's progression been this season, his side has almost mastered tomorrow's grand final opponents and competition heavyweights Dapto Dandaloo at their own game.
The Fury, who shaded Bulli for the league title on goal difference, haven't beaten Smith's side in three attempts this year.
"I think he [Smith] has done a great job of getting a good mix of players to fit into the system he wants to play," Fury mentor Norm Boardman said.
"There's so many more teams trying to play possession-based football now than there was."
And that means Crehan Park conditions will need to be ideal for both sides to be at their best.
"Apparently the pitch is pretty awful so it's not really going to suit either team," Smith said.
"I hope it doesn't play a factor in it because you want to see both teams create chances off their own bat."
Boardman hinted the Fury would employ a different starting line-up to the one used against Port Kembla in the 2-1 preliminary final last weekend.
A fit-again David Reid has a couple of appearances from the substitutes bench under his belt while Matt Radman returns from a two-game suspension.
It leaves the man who guided Dandaloo to an unprecedented clean sweep of all the trophies on offer last campaign with plenty of ammunition in reserve.
"It's very well known it can be won off the bench and we've got a fairly deep bench," Boardman said. "I think that's going to be an advantage."