FOOTBALL: With his brother Nick leaving the club for the South-West Thunder this season, Gatton Redbacks striker Alex Edwards knew it was his time to step up.
He has certainly done just that with his tally of 16 goals, currently the highest of any player in the Premier Men competition, leading the way for his side as they look to put last year's grand finals heartbreak behind them.
Gatton have all but secured a finals place after two crucial results in the past two weeks halted a run of shaky results, with the club desperate to bring the trophy home for the first time this season.
On Sunday Alex scored a hat-trick to inspire his side to a 3-2 win over the previously undefeated Willowburn.
Although the birth of son Leo in the middle of the season proved to be an understandable distraction, the 24-year-old has recaptured his red hot form from the start the season with finals right on the horizon.
"I needed a season where my brother left so I could prove to myself that I just didn't need him to help me,” Alex said.
"(I needed to show) that I could step up and take that role that he had last year, and really show what I can do.
"With the boys' backing, they've really pushed me to another level now, so hopefully by them pushing me to another level, we can all then go to the next level together and push for this title.”
He believes he is in career-best form and puts his improvement solely down to hard work.
"I've put a lot of hard work into changing my ability to shoot and hit the ball, I've really worked on my technique this season to try and be able to put it more towards the corners so the keepers can't get it,” he said.
"It's down to the boys, they're really good at putting me in those positions where I have the ability and the opportunity to take these chances.”
Alex knew how much a premiership would mean to the club, especially with several stalwarts, such as captain Adam Halstead, set to hang up the boots at the end of the year.
"It really means a lot especially after the heartbreak of last year, where we worked so hard and it was there in our hands and to lose it (to West Wanderers) in the way we did, really hurt,” he said.
"Winning it this year will mean the most than other trophy has meant.
"Just seeing Adam and all the other boys lift that trophy at the end of the year would be the best thing that could happen.”
Coach Jon Edwards said his side have played well throughout the season, just without much luck, and they were starting to put it all together going into the crunch part of the campaign.
"Considering that we've been like a yo-yo, up and down, this year the boys really believe they're the best team in the competition and they can go a long way if they play to their potential,” Jon said.
Despite there being a long way to go, Jon said there was plenty of belief from his side they go all the way and win the premiership.
"It's a big deal, you've got some guys that are looking to retire and they want to retire on a high,” he said.
"We want to send them out as a team and as a club and as a community on a high, and to bring that trophy down to the valley for the first time would be really nice.
"It would be good for everyone in the valley, not just Gatton.”
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