Kade Klemke has taken Queanbeyan from cellar-dwellers to the penthouse in the space of a year. Photo: Melissa Adams
Even he is surprised by the Queanbeyan Tigers' climb up the ladder, but that doesn't mean coach Kade Klemke will count the season as a success unless he wins the premiership.
In just his first season in charge of the NEAFL eastern conference team, Klemke has taken them from second last in 2011 to winning the minor premiership.
A win against the Sydney Swans reserves at Manuka Oval today would put them straight into the grand final.
It's been a rise orchestrated largely through the improvement of young Tigers, like Kaine Stevens, but also with a few well-picked recruits, like former Essendon player Jarrod Atkinson.
Many scoffed when they heard Queanbeyan had signed a then 21-year-old playing-coach from the bush.
They wouldn't be so bold now, too busy wiping the egg from their faces.
A team that won just four games last year has lost only three this season and looks the best chance of preventing a super strong Sydney Swans reserves from winning the flag.
While it's just his second season as a coach, this isn't unfamiliar territory for Klemke.
Last year he coached Culcairn, in the Hume Football League, to a minor premiership before bowing out of the finals in straight sets.
He listed over-confidence as the main reason and has taken steps to guard against it with his young Tigers.
Not that complacency is likely with the Swans naming 14 AFL-listed players for today's clash.
"If we go out in both these finals I don't see it as a successful year that I would've liked, especially in the situation we are at the moment – and I was in that situation last year. You ask any coach and they'll say the premiership is the one they want in their trophy cabinet," Klemke told The Canberra Times.
Queanbeyan and the Swans have only met once this year – a 41-point win for Sydney in round 11.
But Klemke said his side has improved since then.
He went down to Blacktown last week to watch the Swans beat Aisnlie by 79 points.
"I still think we can match it against them, to me there are still a few weak areas," Klemke said.
"I didn't walk away from the game going 'this side's unbeatable'. I really felt that their defence was probably one of their weak points, it's just a matter of getting the ball into our forward line."
Andrew Swan (knee) was the Tigers' only injury concern, while the Swans are waiting to see how forward Trent Dennis-Lane (knee) pulls up after a fitness test.
It's a different case for Ainslie, which plays Eastlake in the knockout semi-final at Manuka Oval on Sunday.
The Tricolours have used 42 players so far this season and have made five changes this week, most notably Michael Lawless (hamstring) and Nic Paine (shoulder).
They also are without ruckman Rowan Andrews.
Eastlake, on the other hand, will only be without Tom Ayton, who has had a knee reconstruction.