Continued improvement will be the aim for Kilmore as it enters its fourth season in the NFNL.
After finishing fifth on the ladder in 2017, last year was somewhat of a rollercoaster ride for the Blues – who eventually finished seventh with a 7-9 record.
Kilmore opened the season in style, winning their opening two games, which included a three-point thriller against 2017 grand finalist South Morang in Round 1.
However, the Blues went on to win just one of their next seven games. A late-season revival wasn’t enough to push the club into finals contention – although they did finish the season on a high with a win over eventual grand finalist Panton Hill in their final match.
Despite the promising finish to the 2018 campaign, coach Nathan Phillips said he simply wanted to see his young side continue to develop this year.
“It’s pretty boring, but we’ll take it one week at a time,” Phillips told NFNL.org.au.
“We know we’ve got a lot of young talent, but we’ve still got a lot of guys that may need a little more experience.
“Everyone aims to play finals and win a flag. We’re no different there but we’re not going to set our bar too high.
“Of course we want to win every game and if we don’t, we want to improve.
“So as long as we see some improvement week in week out, who knows how far we can go.”
Kilmore will be bolstered by the return of Luke Chapman after a season at Craigieburn, while Caulfield young gun Chris Ryall and experienced defender Stephen McInyre have also signed on.
Phillips said Chapman would give the Blues more aggression around the ball and was thrilled with what he had seen from Ryall throughout the pre-season.
“Ryall is one who we got from Caulfield. He he won their best and fairest last year and he’s only 19,” Phillips said.
“He’s only a young fella but a really handy footballer so we expect to get a fair bit out of him across half back and through the midfield.
“He’s a very good user of the football by foot, which is the one thing our team has probably lacked in the last few years.”
McIntyre has previously suited up for the Blues, playing five senior games back in 2006.
He played 57 games with Shepparton United between 2014 to 2016 and has also played senior football with Eltham, Prahran Assumption and Avondale Heights.
“He’s coming off a knee, but he’s done a full pre-season. He’s looking very fit, very strong, got a lot of confidence in his knee,” Phillips said.
“He’ll play down back for us and we expect him to bring a lot of experience and a lot of leadership.”
Phillips expected Shane Skidmore to continue his development in 2019 and said Michael McCulloch and Ben Cooney have trained strongly over the summer.
“This will be (Skidmore’s) first full season. He played a few games last year, but he obviously had school commitments and TAC Cup commitments.
“We only got to play him a couple of times so him being available for a full season, we probably expect him to have a reasonable year.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement with Michael McCulloch. It’s his second pre-season back from a broken leg so he’s impressed me and has got a lot of confidence in his body and he’ll play key forward and hopefully do really well.
“Ben Cooney is another who has trained really solidly through summer. He’s put on a little bit of size and should improve on his year last year.”
Kilmore will take on Sunshine Heights and Wallan in their final two practice matches before hosting South Morang at J.J Clancy Reserve in Round 1.
Phillips said the group relished the opportunity to play old rival Wallan before the start of each season.
“We play Wallan every year who we used to be strong rivals with in the Riddell league, so it’s always a good hit-out,” he said.
“They’ve been playing finals in the Riddell league for the last three years, so it’s always a good chance to see where we are at.
“We keep getting closer and closer to them every year, so we are looking forward to that one.”