Bundoora coach Michael Ryan says the introduction of strong on and off-field recruits has his team primed to rebound up the ladder in 2020.
Having finished ninth in 2019, which included a nine-game losing streak to finish the season, the Bulls have brought in new players alongside ex-AFL strength and conditioning guru David Buttifant in a welcome boost for the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 campaign.
Buttifant comes to Yulong Reserve from stints at Collingwood and Carlton, where he was instrumental in the former’s 2010 AFL premiership as the head of strength and conditioning.
Ryan credits Buttifant’s impact at Yulong Reserve as the catalyst for “a big pre-season”, with Bundoora looking to redeem itself after last year missing out on finals action for the first time since 2000.
“We have made a concerted effort to not let a lack of fitness be an excuse for our performance this year,” Ryan told NFNL.org.au.
“Last year our fitness was one thing that hurt us in games of football, so we thought it can’t be an excuse this season with all the work we’ve put in.
“Getting Dave Buttifant on board was big for the club – he’s got a presence. When he speaks the boys really tune in and listen, because obviously they respect him immensely for what he’s been able to achieve in the sport so far.”
Having won a premiership with the Bulls as a player in 2013, Ryan takes over the coaching reins from Andrew Sturgess, who has moved on to coach VFL club Coburg.
Ryan has the job of re-building the proud club, who last year missed the finals for the first time since 2000.
“Last year, as a whole, was extremely disappointing. The club was embarrassed and we’re under no illusion as to where we’re at,” Ryan said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up with the top five teams in the competition, as well as the teams just above us at the moment.
“Our goal will be like any other team to start off the season, and that’s to make finals. We won’t put a ceiling on what we can achieve but finals is going to be the bar for us. Then we’ll just take it from there.”
Bundoora has waved farewell to ex-AFL legend Gary Moorcroft, key position defenders Eamon Gilbert and Daniel Guccione and NFNL representative half back Dale Marshall.
Admitting that “pulling 50 goals out of your forward line (through the loss of Moorcroft) is going to hurt”, Ryan is looking for natural improvement from developing players and an impact from recruits to cover the personnel losses.
“The likes of Joel Lamotte, Matt Morison, Adrian Stefanile, John Jorgensen, Nick McColl and Jesse Thompson have all impressed me,” Ryan said.
Yulong Reserve has become home for Old Ivanhoe key forward Hamish Shepheard, Fitzroy Stars midfielder Kain Proctor, North Heidelberg premiership forward Kyle Green and emerging Eltham youngster Jesse King.
Ryan is confident about the potential of his new players, believing they will set a high standard both on and off the field.
“Kyle Green has got an old head on young shoulders. His voice is sensational, and he has fitted into the group really well. He’s been fantastic for us,” Ryan said.
“The group know Kain Proctor pretty well from when he played with us in 2018. He always seems to have time when he has the footy and if anything, he’s gone to another level with his football.
“Jesse King is a ripping kid. He’s going to be a leader in whatever he does. It’s been good to get that history and connection back to Bundoora with the King family.”
Ryan says the Bulls’ faithful should expect a lot from Hamish Shepheard in 2020.
The former Fremantle listed forward has joined as a playing assistant and had already impressed his new coach with his leadership with a young forward line.
Ryan conceded Bundoora may not see much of reigning best and fairest winner Bailey Thompson. The 20-year-old has been signed by VFL club Coburg and will be “a week-by-week proposition” for the Bulls.
“Luckily Bailey is sensational and loves Bundoora,” Ryan said.
“He still comes down to training whenever he can and gets amongst the boys. There’s no ego about him.”