Supporters of Tatura will be glad to see the back of an injury riddled 2019 season when their beloved Bulldogs embark on a new campaign in the coming weeks.
There was plenty of hype before last year had begun for Tatura, with the outfit boasting one of the most potent midfields in the entire Goulburn Valley League.
But disaster struck when dual best-and-fairest winner and co-captain Mitch Elliott suffered a knee injury in the opening round of the season.
The medical ward grew from that point onwards, with playing coach Jamason Daniels, Andrew Ciavarella and countless others playing through ongoing injuries.
Many will be hoping for a fresh start when the season kicks off in a matter of weeks.
With a new season upon us, supporters of the Bulldogs will also spend the first games familiarising themselves with a new-look outfit that welcomes new and old faces.
And there is a change at the helm, too, with Daniels moving to the Wangaratta Magpies, which has opened the door for long-time club favourite Paul Kirby to take on the reins.
Kirby, a 254-game veteran and dual premiership player at the Bulldogs, said he hoped the off-season changes would not impact the work put in during the past seasons.
“We don’t want to drop off this season, we have made some great progress in the past couple of years,” Kirby said.
“We’ve had some slight changes at the club, but we are really happy with how we are travelling.
“And fingers crossed we don’t get a bad run with injuries like we did last season.”
Looking at list changes, the Bulldogs have waved goodbye to star midfielder Matt Shannon, Jason Tutt, James Sullivan, Jayden Thewma and Charlie Hill.
However, promising talent Jimmy Boyer returns to his junior club from Congupna and Nathalia gun Bailey Bell has shifted to the kennel after a string of premierships in the Murray Football League.
Boyer, who has signed with VFL outfit North Melbourne, claimed the Murray Bushrangers’ best-and-fairest medal last season in his final year with the NAB League club.
The teenager is a sublime user of the football and has a big engine on him and will slot straight into the midfield brigade alongside Nick Fothergill, Shaun Martin and Billy Cooper.
And 2012 premiership players Tom Sullivan and Chris Ryan have returned to bolster the spine, while speedy forward Michael Archer is back after a stint at Dunnstown.
Meanwhile, a versatile big-bodied midfielder has landed at the kennel, with former NEAFL footballer Kirk Mahon joining the club.
Mahon has recently played at University Blues in the VAFA and before that, with the Eastlake Demons in Canberra where he claimed a club best-and-fairest award and multiple runner-up finishes.
“We are really happy with the talent that we have been able to bring in for this season,” Kirby said.
“Jimmy has signed at VFL level, so we are not sure how many games we will get from him, but he’s an exciting prospect.
“He has been on the track over summer and looks super fit, and he’s a great kid, too.”
Kirby highlighted that he was aiming to blood experience into the club’s budding juniors this season, with Morrie Serra, George Brisbane and Matt Rennie ready to take the next step.
“The club has got a couple of talented juniors coming through that will look to cement themselves at senior level,” he said.
“We have got a good mix of players in our side and everyone is excited to see where the year takes us.”
JOINED LEAGUE: 1894
GROUND: TATURA PARK
COACH: PAUL KIRBY
PRESIDENT: JOHN MAHER
PREMIERSHIPS: 1898, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1952, 1953, 1995, 1998, 2003, 2012
MORRISON MEDALLISTS: W. PRITCHARD (1947), J. GREENWOOD (1969, 1970), N. SMITH (1974), T. ESLER (1995 JOINT)
2019 FINISH: SIXTH (11-1-7)
2019 BEST-AND-FAIREST: JAMASON DANIELS
2019 LEADING GOAL-KICKER: NICK FOTHERGILL (35)
IN: Jimmy Boyer (Congupna), Tom Sullivan, Chris Ryan (Heidelberg), Bailey Bell (Nathalia), Michael Archer (Dunnstown), Kirk Mahon (University Blues), Tom Durward (Undera), Rob Kirby (Sandhurst), Kade Gall
OUT: Jamason Daniels, Charlie Hill (Wangaratta Rovers), Matt Shannon (Balwyn), James Sullivan (Strathmore), Jason Tutt (AFL Canberra), Jayden Thewma (Nathalia)
GAME CHANGER: NICK FOTHERGILL
The classy midfielder showcased last season that he was one player to stop when opposition teams fronted travelled to Tatura Park.
Fothergill booted a team-high 35 goals playing as a midfielder-forward and broke games apart with his ability to find the ball at an explosive rate and hit the scoreboard.
However, the classy onballer is back at VFL outfit Williamstown for the upcoming season which may limit his appearances in the red, white and blue.
FINISHING RANGE: 4th – 8th
Last season the Bulldogs were cruelled by injury, with the side rarely able to field its strongest list at one time due to a long list of injuries.
Can a healthy list make a serious assault on the premiership and rival the competition’s heavyweights?
Another factor to consider is whether the holes left from Jamason Daniels, Matt Shannon and Jason Tutt can be filled by the new crop of players coming in.