NEW Wodonga Saints coach Terry Burgess hopes he hasn't bitten off more than he can chew.
The 50-year-old, regarded as having one of the best footy brains in North East Victoria, has taken on the biggest challenge of his illustrious career.
The Saints, in the Tallangatta and District Football League, are lumbered with one of the most unenviable records in country footy in recent memory - just one win in three years.
That solitary victory - a four-point triumph over Tallangatta last year - broke a 49-game losing streak, but came among 17 losses for the season, at an average margin of 190 points.
On Saturday, the Saints lost their Round 1 match to flag favourites Thurgoona by more than 30 goals.
"A couple of people have said it's probably the biggest challenge in the southern hemisphere in terms of football," Burgess said.
"But I've been up for a few big challenges in the past, and while this is certainly the biggest that I've taken on, I know we can get some results."
Burgess arrived at the Saints after a two-year stint as under-18 coach at Ovens and Murray club Wodonga Raiders.
"I was in the process of having a year off, but the boys from the Saints came to see me," he said.
"The club was in a reasonably desperate situation - if it had made another poor decision in terms of getting someone in there who could help get the place back into shape, they probably mightn't be going around for much longer.
"But they were very upfront and honest about what situation the club was in, and they felt they needed some experience in the coaching department."
Experience wasn't something Burgess was short on - born and bred in Myrtleford, he played about 15 years of footy for his hometown club, winning three best-and-fairests and captain-coaching the side in 1986-87.
In 1983, at age 22, he won a Morris Medal as the Ovens and Murray league's best-and-fairest, after spending the pre-season training with North Melbourne.
In 1989, he switched to rival Wodonga, where he played in two grand finals for one win and one loss.
After hanging up the boots, Burgess took up coaching at Wodonga, leading the Bulldogs' reserves to three flags in three seasons from 1993-95.
In 1996, he was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs' seniors, before heading to Richmond for three years in a variety of off-field roles under former Wodonga coach Jeff Gieschen, and then Danny Frawley.
"That was a fantastic experience, to be in the pressure cooker of AFL footy," Burgess said.
"It's certainly a very different environment - it's footy 24-7."
After returning to northeast Victoria, Burgess coached Tallangatta league club Barnawartha in 2008-09, before taking on his most recent role at the Wodonga Raiders.
For all his success, Burgess said he was motivated to help lift the Saints from the doldrums.
"There was probably three things that made me do it - knowing I could make a difference and help the club survive, which would then give a couple of hundred kids the opportunity to participate in footy on a weekly basis; the passion displayed by the committee members that came to see me; and the challenge.
"Through experience, I know that if you get some good people in there and the right systems in place and train to the level that's required for the competition you're playing in, you'll get results.
"It may take time, but you'll certainly get the results."
In its current guise, the Wodonga Saints have only existed for 11 years.
The club was previously known as Bethanga Saints, but changed its name and moved its base 30km west from Bethanga to Wodonga in 2001 in a bid to drum up greater community support.
The overhaul was fuelled by a 1999 VCFL report, which suggested Bethanga should merge or fold due to its location, facilities and lack of followers.
The Saints won an under-17 premiership in 2009, but their last senior grand final appearance was in 2004 - a 28-point loss to Mitta United.
Burgess said that after years of floggings, the club's improvement this year would not be measured in wins and losses.
"We need to go back to basics and just learn how to train better, so we can get ourselves fitter and learn how to give some good repeat efforts at the footy," he said.
"From there, we can then start to teach them a little bit about how to play the game once they can win their own footy on a regular basis. We've just got to learn how to compete again."
Off-field, the Saints have sought the assistance of the VCFL in developing a business plan to ensure the club's future.