BEN Koina would not have been a name tossed around when pundits were assessing how the revamped Hamilton line-up would fare this state league season.
With the likes of noted goal-poacher Clayton Poole, Tom Walker and Jacob Bailey joining three-time league-topping goalscorer John Majurovski and Dave Hodgson at Olympic, many predicted a huge turnaround from last year’s second-last side.
After a slow start, Mick Bolch’s side are on a seven-match winning streak and sit third on the ladder with a game in hand on the leaders.
And while all of Hamilton’s big names are firing, it has been the emergence of Koina which has perhaps had the greatest influence on the side’s hot streak.
The attacking midfielder has scored nine goals in eight games, including a double in the 5-2 win over West Wallsend on Sunday.
‘‘His workrate is phenomenal,’’ Bolch said. ‘‘To have that midfielder who runs into the box and scores goals, it’s hard to come by.
‘‘To have players running past Hodgo and Maj, who are both quality on the ball, it’s hard to shut them down and the run coming from deep. It’s working for us at the moment.
‘‘It’s no surprise we’ve won our last seven and eight of our last nine with that happening, and he’s been a big part of it.’’
The 20-year-old, a Valentine and Hamilton junior, returned to Olympic last season after three years with Edgeworth.
He was beginning to show his potential with Hamilton in two first-grade games last year before he broke his shoulder on a trip to the snow midway through the season.
He started this campaign in under23s before getting his chance in the top grade.
‘‘A couple of injuries and Daniel Casciaroli going overseas has opened a door for him and he’s grabbed it with both hands,’’ Bolch said.
‘‘It’s great for us and for him.
‘‘The past couple of years he’s been a fringe player but he’s probably just needed that chance at a bit of consistency of a run of five or six games in first grade.’’
Koina, an electrician from Warners Bay, said he had taken a more professional approach to his preparation.
But he believed his teammates had played the crucial part in his goal-scoring run.
‘‘I’ve always liked playing the attacking midfield role and I suppose goals just come with playing that kind of position,’’ he said.
‘‘Hodgo, Maj, Clayton Poole and Tommy Walker are delivering good balls and helping me out, and they are always teaching me new things at training.’’