THERE is no doubt Hamilton are coming to the end of an era.
But just how it will finish could hinge on another fighting effort against Edgeworth on Sunday at Darling Street Oval.
Preparing to have a new head coach for the first time since 2010, Olympic are facing an exodus after this Northern NSW NPL season.
Kane Goodchild, Scott Smith and Grant Brown have confirmed moves to Charlestown for 2018 and the Herald has been told the total departures could reach double figures.
Of the regular first-graders, captain Kyle Hodges, Tom Davies and Cody Lucas have re-signed and Reece Papas has recently joined the squad, but the club is preparing to lose the vast majority of their remaining top players.
Despite the upheaval, Hamilton are still in the hunt for silverware in 2017.
Approaching round 18 of 22, Hamilton sit fourth on 28 points and with a game in hand on Lambton Jaffas (32), Valentine (31) and Broadmeadow (27).
A win over leaders Edgeworth (33) will not only put them a step closer to the finals, but place them firmly in the minor premiership mix.
Hamilton have lost just one game in their past 10 but have had to dig deep late in 2-1 wins over Charlestown and the Jets Youth and in a 2-all draw with Maitland over the past three rounds.
Coach Michael Bolch, who is taking over at Maitland and will be replaced by Peter McGuinness after this season, has been encouraged by the rallies but said his side will need to lift against the Eagles.
“While we’re not playing brilliantly at the moment, you can’t commend the boys enough,” Bolch said.
“The amount of determination they are showing, that’s three weeks in a row we’ve scored two late goals to win or draw games. We’re not playing well and still getting results, which is a great sign, and we’re playing out the full 90 minutes each week.
“If we beat Edgy this weekend, we’re two points off them and maybe the top of the table, so it’s a massive game for us.
“But we need to be better than we have been. They played us off the park in the FFA Cup the last time we played them, so we need to be better.”
He hoped a better start could make life easier.
“I reckon six of the last eight games we’ve been behind and chasing the game,” he said. “A lot of teams just set people behind the ball and it makes it tough to break them down.
“But we’ve come back and we’re still gelling. Reece Papas has come in, Sean Pratt has been there only four games, Rhys Cooper has had three back, so it’s still coming together.
“We’re still there and we’ll keep on turning up each week, and we’ll see what happens. You want to finish off as strong as you can.”
Hamilton will be without Tommy Spencer, who hurt his ankle at training last week, but expect Mat Swan to return from three weeks out with a hamstring strain.
Eagles coach Damian Zane believed it would take 36 points to make finals this year and said his focus was on securing that spot, and not on the minor premiership race.
“You just don’t rock up and win games, you’ve got to play well,” Zane said. “My thing still is to secure a place in the top four, that’s our next goal. I think Hamilton will come out all guns blazing this weekend. They will be up for us.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Broadmeadow host Adamstown at Magic Park. On Saturday, Jaffas welcome Charlestown to Edden Oval, sixth-placed Maitland (24) face a crunch game against Valentine at Cahill Oval and the Bears take on the Jets Youth at Weston Park.