When Darren Taylor took over as coach of the Dubbo Rhinos’ second grade outfit, the side was rooted to the bottom of the ladder after losses in the first three rounds.
At that stage, all the hype was around the first grade outfit which had won two of its matches and was eyeing off a finish high on the New Holland Agriculture Cup ladder.
But now, just more than three months later, and things look vastly different in the Dubbo Rhinos club.
Taylor’s second grade side is the lone Rhinos outfit to be playing in the post-season but it will be do-and-die every week.
On Sunday, the Rhinos travel to play the Mudgee Wombats in the second grade minor semi-final, before the hosts take on CSU in the main elimination game.
Adding the spice of a minor semi is the fact the Rhinos played the Wombats at Mudgee last weekend, losing that game 14-0.
“We can beat Mudgee, I know we can,” Taylor said.
“It’s finals and we’re just taking it one week at a time and we’re looking forward to it.
“The whole club is riding with us so we want to show them, and each other, that we can do it.”
It’s been a big effort from the Rhinos just to make finals.
After five losses to start the year, the side has slowly started finding its shape and form.
A lot of that has come from what Taylor instilled early on after taking over. A former first grade coach at the club, Taylor took over despite never coaching a second grade side before.
“I told the boys I would treat them like first graders and I had that expectation of them,” he said.
“We’ve had players out and players going up to first grade so it’s been different and it can feel like you’re starting all over again each week.
“But the boys have responded well and there’s other games we should have won but we’ve just done little things wrong.”
Taylor said little mistakes was what went wrong last week, with the lack of ball being spread out wide at times a reason the Rhinos failed to score.
They had a number of chances, especially when the Wombats had players sin-binned, but couldn’t make it count and that inability to take opportunities is something Taylor has spoken about at length in the lead-up to this weekend’s game.
“We pushed (minor premiers) Narromine and we pushed (second-placed) Blayney so there’s no reason why we can’t put it all together,” he said.
“And after only playing them last week it’s fresh in our minds. We’ve got to go there and be better. It’s as simple as that.”
Sunday’s game kicks off at 1.40pm at Jubilee Oval.