by Pam McKay
AUSSIE RULES: Mark Wallin is a hard task master. He expects 100 per cent commitment from his troops but he sets the same exacting standards for himself.
"The minute I want to stop winning premierships is the minute I stop coaching,” Wallin says with a steely resolve.
As he gears up to lead the mighty Yeppoon Swans in their quest for an historic four-peat in the AFL Capricornia competition in 2018, he can't see that happening any time soon.
He has long maintained that the Swans are a pleasure to coach because the players want success as much as he does.
His demand for excellence is matched by their relentless drive and desire to keep improving.
The champion side's three-year dominance has undoubtedly established it as one of the best in any competition in any code in Queensland.
It was unbeaten in its run to its third consecutive flag last year (its shortest winning margin was 54 points) and it has not lost a game since Round 6 in 2015.
Its average winning margin in 2017 was 135 points (up from 115 points in 2016); points against a miserly 22 (compared to 45 the year before).
Wallin and his players return to training this week after their Christmas break, for a gruelling pre-season.
While there will be some personnel changes, Wallin is confident his side "won't be any weaker than last year”.
Three outstanding recruits have moved to Brisbane to try their hand in the QAFL - Alex Chapman and Michael Gallagher have gone to Winston Grange, and teenager Ari Miles to Palm Beach.
But the Swans have recruited three worthy replacements in Luke Hay, whose brother Nick was part of the 2017 premiership winning side, as well as southern stars Rob Lowing and Nick Clay.
They will also welcome back Jimmy Malone, the competition's leading goakicker in 2016, as well as champion midfielder Tommy Cossens who was sidelined by injury last year.
Wallin is keen for his players to keep raising the bar, and he's happy to hear talk in competition circles that several opposition clubs will field stronger outfits this year.
"I'm very lucky that I've got a bunch of young men who love football, love being fit and aren't afraid to work hard to get what they want,” he said.
"We aren't prepared to drop our standards down; we want the other teams to rise to challenge us.
"Complacency is not an option. As soon as we start thinking it's just going to happen is exactly when it will stop happening.
"I always say to the boys that while the window of opportunity is open we need to make the most of it and win as many titles as we can.
"Our future's in our hands; if we want to win another flag we've certainly got the cattle there to do it.”