Consecutive wins for the first time this TAC Cup season have the Western Jets back in the finals picture.
The Jets finished strongly to beat the Northern Knights by 16 points in a low-scoring affair at Rams Arena in Craigieburn on Saturday.
Suddenly, the Jets are in with a sniff of finals, with two wins in the remaining two rounds likely to be enough to have them in the top eight come September.
But Jets coach Torin Baker was playing down any talk of finals, preferring to focus on the process, rather than a potential end result.
“From our mid-year review, we set a couple of areas we thought we could get better and we’ve really honed in on them and made it the key focus,” Baker said.
“If we can tick off those off by the end of the year, regardless of wins and losses, we’ll be happy with that.”
Western Jets have enjoyed a more settled line-up in recent weeks.
The presence of star players Cameron Rayner and Lachlan Fogarty has been a huge bonus. Not only are they prolific ball winners for the Jets, they are shining as team leaders and their appetite for success is rubbing off on teammates.
Rayner and Fogarty both snared two goals to go with their high possession count.
“I think both Fogs and Cam are just super passionate about playing for the Jets and doing their absolute best,” Baker said.
“They’re really invested in the program, which is terrific.
“It’s a reflection of the way they go about their footy and they’ll do that at whatever footy club they play for.”
While the Western Jets have strengthened their top end, it was a rookie who stole the show in the win over the Knights.
Darcy Cassar, an under-16 Vic Metro representative, produced four first half goals in an electric display.
Cassar was able to find avenues to goal in a variety of ways, including two crumbing goals, one from a set shot after a strong body on body mark and one on the run.
“He’s a pacy boy with good physicality as well,” Baker said.
“He’s got good speed and endurance and a bit of forward craft.”
Luke Hitch set the scene with his physicality on the man and aggression at the ball, while Zak Butters and Nick Stuhldreier rounded out the Jets best players. Connor Thar bobbed up for a vital fourth term goal.
All the Jets can do is win if they want to play in the finals. Their clash with eighth-placed Gippsland Power at Morwell Recreation Reserve on Saturday is one of two do-or-die encounters to come for the Jets.
The trip to Morwell will be a special one for Jack Papachatzakis, who is likely to return from an ACL injury. Papachatzakis, who played for the Jets in his bottom-age year, is the only player on the list to not play a game this season because of his injury.
“Jack’s a ripping kid who’s been totally dedicated towards his rehab and committed to the Jets in every way he goes about it,” Baker said. “It will be good to give him an opportunity next week.”