Elodie Dagg finds it "exciting, shocking and a bit weird" to have emerged as Warners Bay's leading scorer this year.
But Panthers coach Craig Atkins is not one bit surprised by the consistently dominant performances his captain is delivering in Newcastle Herald Women's Premier League.
"She's playing so well and has taken her game to the next level," Atkins said. "She is a natural leader, on and off the park, and is lifting those players around her.
"I always thought Elodie should've been scoring a whole heap more goals. We've been working on it a fair bit and it's paying off."
As a midfielder, the Branxton 25-year-old has previously been more comfortable providing the assists than finding the back of the net.
But she has scored 14 goals in 15 matches to be third in the race for the league's leading goalscorer accolade behind Olympic's Jemma House (19) and Magic's Ash Brodigan (18).
"It's a surprise for me," Dagg said. "I just seem to be getting into good spots and hitting it better than I have been in previous years.
"I'm so used to playing with strikers who you know if you play those balls through then they finish them. And I was very happy, and still am very happy, just to play those passes to set them up and then work off the ball.
"But it's been good. It pushes me to want to be that player who can do that and make those differences in games where I wasn't normally that player."
Her performances are driving Warners Bay as they target a top-four finish and are helping fill the void left by the departure this year of American striker Jen Hoy. Hoy proved pivotal to the Panthers progressing to last year's grand final, which was won by Olympic.
"Losing Jen was massive, not just for the club but for the whole competition," Dagg said. "She was someone girls wanted to play against and play with in the way that it would push them.
"The way she spoke about the game and about our mental strength was really inspiring. Everyone picked up because of what she'd say and how positive she was on and off the field.
"It's something I definitely try to put into my own game and put onto other players in the team."
They are also without former W-League player Tara Pender, who lives in Sydney and is under lockdown restrictions due to the latest coronavirus outbreak.
They are level with Adamstown on 28 points, four ahead of this weekend's opponents Maitland (24) in fifth, with five games of the season proper remaining.
The three sides are vying for third and fourth place.
"Every game for us now is like we're playing finals; it's must-win," Dagg said. "As tough as that is, it's also exciting.
"I think going through a bit of a rough patch has helped us grow more together."
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