Melton South never shied away from its situation - it couldn't.
A 10-year run without finals was one of the longest in the competition. Entering 2021, the Panthers had won just three matches in the past 1022 days.
Club members admit it had been a tough time.
So, halfway into the season, when Melton South stood one win away from the top four, excitement was understandably high.
There was no grand return, the Panthers suffering a 69-point opening-round loss to crosstown rivals Melton.
But, it was a start, and soon the competition would take notice.
Redan didn't know what had hit them when they arrived down the highway in round two.
A two-point lead was all the heavily-backed Lions could muster at the first break before the Panthers flipped the script to enter the sheds in front by four at half-time.
Level at three-quarter time, it took a last-minute goal for Redan to escape with a one-point win.
The BFNL was aware.
The Panthers would only have to wait a week for a win, stunning Bacchus Marsh by three goals.
Then they backed it up.
A five-goal Dylan Conway haul pushed Melton South past Sunbury and to its first consecutive wins since round four 2012.
Conway's arrival would prove to be a boost not just for his side but the league as a whole.
The former VFL star kicked a competition-high 35 goals at an average of 3.5 per game while shouldering the Panthers' attack while his comrades fell around him.
Within four rounds, Melton South's leadership group was decimated. Vice captains Daniel Leggett and Brody Sullivan both suffered ACL injuries. Co-captain Brody Sullivan broke his arm.
Former Footscray VFL midfielder Bradley Olsson was plagued by soft tissue complaints, managing just four games for the season.
The bye was a welcome chance to rest some bodies, but the return from it was damning.
An away trip to Lake Wendouree had the potential to propel the Panthers up the ladder. What followed instead can be seen as the start of the downfall.
The Panthers had three weeks to dwell on a dire 67-point loss as the season sunk into its first COVID break.
The first game back went well enough, Dylan Conway's nine goals and Shuan Wyatt's four helping their side to a needed win against Darley.
However, that would be the last of the positives.
Four losses followed to close the season. On average, Melton South could muster just 59.75 points. Its opponents were kicking 22 goals on them.
A season that opened with such promise just fizzled out.
Still, a 10th-place finish does not speak to the Panthers' ceiling.
The long-troubled outfit was just two wins off a finals place, and it has some of the competition's most-talented players in its ranks.
Ryan Pendlebury was influential across the park, while Bradley Olsson could be a force if he gets through a full season.
If their stars stay around and injury fortune plays its part, the future looks bright for the Panthers.
10th, 3 wins, 4 losses, 12 pts, 63.69 per cent
Rd 1: def by Melton, 6.8 (44) to 16.17 (113)
Rd 2: def by Redan, 14.11 (95) to 14.12 (96)
Rd 3: beat Bacchus Marsh, 16.8 (104) to 10.14 (74)
Rd 4: beat Sunbury, 15.7 (97) to 10.14 (74)
Rd 5: BYE
Rd 6: def by Lake Wendouree, 7.3 (45) to 16.16 (112)
Rd 7: beat Darley, 13.12 (90) to 9.8 (62)
Rd 8: def by Ballarat, 8.4 (52) to 19.13 (127)
Rd 9: def by North Ballarat, 7.9 (51) to 20.12 (132)
Rd 10: def by East Point, 13.4 (82) to 26.10 (166)
Rd 11: def by Sebastopol, 8.6 (54) to 24.21 (165)