Three consecutive premierships has become a mark of greatness.
It stands Brisbane (2001-03) and Hawthorn (2013-15) above all others in the modern AFL era. And so a similar opportunity presents the Wollongong Lions, chasing their third straight South Coast flag this year.
But the Lions have undergone a radical playing group overhaul, with goalkicking spearhead Alex Cotter heading a list of top players to leave over summer.
It’s forced coach Ray Burgess to shake up his plans inside the forward 50m.
Cotter booted 90 goals last year, including a crucial last-quarter effort from the pocket in the Lions’ 15-point win over Kiama at North Dalton Park.
Ken Ewen-Chappell was their second most potent goalscorer with 35, who announced his retirement after the grand final triumph.
But even with the setbacks, Burgess expects the changes to make the Lions more unpredictable and potentially even more dangerous.
“We’ve been working on a few plans, using different combinations of players up forward,” he said.
“We’re still working on it, but we’ve had a solid 10 or 11 weeks of pre-season now and we’re in a pretty good place.
“There’s been a lot of change, Alex was such a key figure for us in front of goal.
“But it’s an opportunity to be more flexible and we also expect the midfield to produce more goals this season as well.”
Skilful Sydney University NEAFL midfielder Lachie Maples and South Australian recruit Harry Weeks are expected to adds some class to the Lions push for three in a row.
Jake Keating, Daniel Leary and Kyle Veeruis are among others who have left.
“And that’s the thing, as much as the club is going for three in a row, there’ll be a lot of new players involved,” he said.
“There’s probably only six or seven players who are going for their third, I’m only going for a second.
“The league will be tougher than ever too, we expect Kiama and the Bulldogs to be right up there again and the competition in general has been getting closer.”
The first round is next Saturday, with the Lions lauching their title defence against Figtree, who made it to the first week of the finals last season, losing an elimination thriller against Shellharbour.