Bundoora men’s football coach Michael Ryan says the club is determined to avoid a letdown next year following its stunning rise in 2021.
The Bulls missed out on the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 finals for the first time in two decades in 2019, but responded emphatically this year, jumping from ninth place on the ladder to second.
Having worked hard to quickly emerge as a legitimate premiership contender, Ryan said the club was determined to avoid a slide in 2022.
At the time of writing, Bundoora has announced the re-signing of 23 players, as well as bringing in two new recruits – headlined by the signing of former Essendon midfielder David Zaharakis.
Zaharakis played 226 games for the Bombers between 2009 to 2021, with the 2011 best and fairest and 2013 Anzac Day medal among his accolades.
Ryan said Zaharakis would not only benefit the Bulls on the field but would also provide great value for the club’s younger players.
“The standards, the behaviours and the professionalism that David sets just from his training standards in the way he prepares for a game, I’ve got no doubt it’s going to rub off on those younger boys,” Ryan said.
“We saw the benefits of the way Sam (Lloyd) prepared himself and the intensity that Sam trained at, and Nathan Thomas in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 pre-season.
“I’ve got no doubt that’s been the catalyst for some of the improvement in those younger boys too, mainly Jesse King, Tristan Brown, Jacob Maynes and John Jorgensen.”
As well as teaming up with former AFL forward Sam Lloyd, Zaharakis will also line-up alongside ex-Essendon VFL teammate Danny Younan.
Younan, a premiership player with the Bulls in 2017, will play with the club full-time in 2022 while serving as a playing-assistant coach.
Ryan said he was looking forward to watching the trio team up.
“I’m super excited by those three boys, but also I look at the depth in our midfield with Kain Proctor and Kyle Green, who both had outstanding 2021 seasons,” he said.
“Luke Collins is just getting better every season as a footballer. Nathan Thomas and Jai Burns were also able to provide plenty when they got the opportunity to go on-ball as well this year.
“I think there’s some real density on ball. What they’re able to do I suppose is they take a fair bit of the attention of the opposition and then those other guys, who are all very good footballers in their own right, will be able to get off the chain a little bit.”
Bundoora has also signed midfielder James Condello from Macleod. The 22-year-old played 55 senior games for the Roos, including the 2018 grand final.
“James is going to bring a level of hardness around the football and around the contest, plus he’s got a huge work rate and a huge work ethic too,” Ryan said.
While thrilled by the level of commitment shown by the club’s 2021 playing group, Ryan expected several young stars to commit to playing in the VFL in 2022.
“A couple of the boys that have played a fair bit of footy in 2021 we may not see as much because of the fact they’re playing state-league football for their own benefit, and they go with our full support,” he said.
Ryan said the club was looking to commence its pre-season campaign in mid-November as it prepares to back up its promising efforts from 2021.
“We’re definitely doing a bit of planning for it at the moment. My aim is to start in mid-November and get back into it albeit around the COVID protocols and guidelines. We’re working through that at the moment and how things are going to be structured,” he said.
“They are training at the moment in groups of up to seven or eight guys three or four nights a week. They’re getting together, running blocks and having a kick and catching up at local ovals.
“It’s going to come off the back of having a really strong pre-season and keep showing strong standards, good behaviours to one another and then in turn the harder you work, the luckier you get.
“We understand we just need to make sure that we keep going with the same process and same methods and then providing we tick off those things we could be in a pretty good space this time next year.”