The Deni Rams will look to youth and a handful of returning past players to turn their fortunes around in the 2019 Murray Football League season.
The club collected its first wooden spoon in living memory last year and have appointed former premiership players Troy Bartlett and Sam Hall as non-playing co-coaches in a bid to move up the ladder.
This will be Bartlett’s third stint as senior coach but his first in a non-playing capacity. It will be Hall’s first crack at senior coaching.
The duo has retained the core playing group and welcomed back Anthony Bull, Josh Whelan and Nick Howe, who they played in a flag with in 2011.
Other notable inclusions are midfield runners Ryan Brunker and Dylan East from Deni Rovers and former star Rams junior Henry Johnstone.
Hall said they would continue to promote youth into the senior side as part of a longer term plan.
‘‘Our club traditionally has survived and thrived on playing our kids, so we wont be changing that.
‘‘We did bring back some experienced heads to add some body strength around the ground, which we probably lacked last year.
‘‘We have guys like Will Shaw, Jake McManus, Ryan MacDonald, John Bowie and Kyle Elphick coming out of the thirds and have had a big pre-season. They all look ready for senior footy which is great for the club.
‘‘Will (Shaw) and Ryan (MacDonald) did the full pre-season with the Bendigo Pioneers which will no doubt improve their footy, and Will was selected in the final squad which is great.
‘‘We have our core group from last year — guys like Ash Morris, Ricky Gittens, Todd Gallagher and John Anstee who are all class players.
‘‘These blokes are all part of our leadership group and Anstee will captain the side.’’
Hall said there wasn’t any ‘‘soul searching’’ over the summer months but more so a real commitment from the playing group and club as a whole to look to the future and not dwell on the past.
‘‘To be honest, last season’s finish had probably been coming for a couple of years but as a club we just couldn’t stop it for various reasons.
‘‘But to the playing group and club’s credit, they’ve just got on with the job and we’ve put some structures in place to hopefully ensure were heading in the right direction.
‘‘We’ve had a really positive pre-season with good numbers on the track and we’ve really focused on having fun but at the same time working hard together.
‘‘Troy and I are already really proud of our players and how they’ve responded over summer, it’s a credit to them. Hopefully we’ll see that reward for effort during the season, without setting any lofty goals.’’
Other Rams coaching appointments for the 2019 season are Jake Cavallaro and Sam Callanan as reserves co-coaches, John Fitzpatrick and Trent O’Callaghan (3rds co-coaches) and Tim Hillier (4ths).
Ins: Anthony Bull (Whycheproof-Narraport), Ryan Brunker, Scott Atley, Dylan East, Blair Sartore, Brodie McQuie, Logan Ives (Deni Rovers), Nick Howe (South Bendigo), Josh Whelan (Doncaster), Henry Johnstone (year off), Hamish Ross (Henty), Joel Park (Wagga CSU), Matt Wade (Woorndoo Mortlake).
Outs: Sid Pearn (uni).