Replacing outgoing Tatura captain Tom Miller was always going to be a tough ask — so much so two players have been tasked with sharing that responsibility.
Along with Mitch Elliott, defender Brad Ryan is captaining the Bulldogs this season, a natural step forward for the seasoned full-back.
Ryan, 25, has rarely missed a game since heading to the Kennel from Kyabram in 2014, notching up his 100th senior game for the Bulldogs in round 13 against Shepparton United.
Ryan said captaincy was a new challenge for him, but one he saw as a positive opportunity.
‘‘It’s a bit of a step up obviously, but I’m enjoying it,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a good challenge and I feel like we’ve got four or five guys, or even more, that can lead as a group. Hopefully I can help to get the best out of the group as a collective.’’
Through his stint at the club, Ryan has experienced Tatura’s total reconstruction as a senior side; the Bulldogs made a semi-final in 2014 before bottoming out to 12th the year after, patiently building since to last season’s return to finals.
He said the side felt poised to continue to push into the Goulburn Valley League’s elite bracket.
‘‘We’re all probably a similar sort of age, low-to-mid 20s, except for a couple that are a bit older,’’ Ryan said.
‘‘We all get on well, it’s a good social culture and things like that, so we try and do things together and stick together.
‘‘Last year we got in a position where we probably let ourselves down in the first week of finals, Echuca got the jump on us early. If we can get to finals and win a final that would be a good result, and if we can go further, we’ll see how we go.’’
While Numurkah duo Jordan O’Dwyer and Braydon Sutton joined in the off-season, the Bulldogs’ backline remains stable, but the third-ranked defence in the league (allowing 65.5 points per game) will be keen to improve even further in pursuit of top-tier Kyabram (41.1) and Echuca (48.6).
‘‘Other than ‘Brayds’ and ‘Jidsy’ (O’Dwyer) who have come in, we’ve all played together for probably three years now,’’ Ryan said.
‘‘We like to play as a team within a team kind of thing, just try and work together and tick our jobs off. If we can keep teams under 10 or 11 goals, we think we’re a chance most weeks.’’