A Ballarat SC player has charged to the top of the goal-scoring leaderboard in his first season of state league competition.
Justin Whitcher took a leap of faith when he approached Ballarat head coach Jamie Winton to ask if he could play in the forward-line prior to the Football Victoria state league five west season.
He was coming off a down year. And having played as a back for the better part of his senior career, the 26-year-old felt a change was in order.
But not even Whitcher could have foreseen what was to come next.
"You've got to pinch yourself sometimes and go 's**t, this has actually happened," Whitcher said.
"Jamie was happy to try it, and if it worked then it worked and if it didn't, I'd have to come up with something else."
After getting off to a slow start in the first round of the season, it looked as if he may have to start brainstorming.
But when he kicked four goals in the team's round-two victory over Wyndham, Whitcher found himself leading all goal-scorers in the competition.
Three weeks later he notched another hat-trick, followed by a double a fortnight after.
Now 10-rounds into the season, Whitcher has the second most goals of any player in the league.
More importantly, his team holds fourth spot on the ladder, and is firmly in the hunt for promotion at year's end.
You've got to pinch yourself sometimes and go 's**t, this has actually happened.Justin Whitcher
"I've been lucky to have been at the end of the hard work of the other 10 boys on the field, and being in the right place at the right time," Whitcher said.
"I've got a solid four guys behind me that win the 50-50 balls, and it helps when you can finish off their hard work."
After making his senior debut for the club as a teenager, Whitcher spent a decade in the back-line before getting a taste of forward-line action last year.
Ironically, Whitcher believes his experience as a back has been a big reason for his success because he knows how to get under the defenders' skin.
But his dominance hasn't gone unnoticed.
In Ballarat's round-six clash with Barwon, the opposition made a point of putting the clamps on Whitcher to keep him away from the ball. The Reds went on to lose the match 2-0, allowing Barwon to leapfrog them on the ladder.
"I could've gone and stood in the corner and my defender would've stood right beside me in that game," Whitcher recalled.
The loss was a blemish on an otherwise uplifting year for the team, which was thrown together without any real expectation in the hope it would stick.
With only a handful of players having played together in the past, Whitcher said he could not be happier with how the team had gelled.
"We're not in it for ourselves, we're in it to put the club in a good position which shows on game day," he said.
"When it comes to the crunch, we put in more and back each more than other teams have, which has helped us win some tight games."