A SEVENTH consecutive Australian Country Men's Championship crown and the best ever campaign from a New South Wales Country outfit - Jaden Ekert could not have wished for a better end to his state coaching tenure.
The once Queensland Country striker turned New South Wales Country mentor was delighted with the performance of his squad at the Shepparton based titles.
While Ekert will now step down on the role to devote more time to his family, he will long remember what his squad produced at the nine-day tournament.
"It was a massive week," he said.
"They were phenomenal and we became the most dominant New South Wales Country team for a national tournament, scoring 44 goals for and letting just three in.
"That's never been seen before, never been done before.
"I was really proud of the guys and how they conducted themselves all week, they were very professional. In saying that, I do set professional standards, we are one of the top national New South Wales teams.
"I ask the guys to strive for more than they want to achieve ... I don't want them to be content with just winning, there's more than just winning."
They were phenomenal and we became the most dominant New South Wales Country team for a national tournament.Jaden Ekert
While Ekert had plenty of talent within his squad - including Central West products Logan Hunter, David Reid, Nic Milne, Taylor Dolbel, Ben Kelly, Mick Dillon and Will Searl - the coach still faced a challenge of getting them to unite as one.
In fact he saw that as his biggest assignment.
"For me it's just about the dynamics of the team. You can have exceptional players, but if the team doesn't gel then you don't have a very good side," Ekert said.
"That's probably the most challenging thing, to try and get that cohesion especially with new guys that have never played at such a high level.
"You bring young guys in that you want to develop and who could potentially become AHL players, it does make it harder because they feel like they have a point to prove.
"What I try to communicate to them is that they have nothing to prove, they have been selected for a reason."
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NSW Country began the tournament in style with a 6-0 win over South Australia.
That dominance continued as Ekert's men accounted for Victoria 9-2, Western Australia 5-0, Queensland 5-0 and Australian Defence Forces 7-1 to top the standings after the pool games.
A 7-0 win over ADF in the semi-final set New South Wales Country up for a shot at a seventh consecutive national title.
They met familiar foes Queensland Country in the decider and though there was pressure to perform, the side in blue rose to the challenge. They posted a 3-0 win with Milne and Dillon amongst the scorers.
"We were up 2-0 at half-time and we scored our last goal in the last quarter with 10 minutes to go," Ekert said.
"They got six short corners, but our two goalkeepers are pretty phenomenal athletes in Logan Hunter and David Reid - both Lithgow boys.
"At no point was I concerned, it was more angst that we'd get the job done because we'd done it so easily through the round games. You've always got that you don't want the boys to be complacent. But they weren't, they were phenomenal."