Garry Ramsay is aiming for a top three finish in his first season at the helm of Montmorency, despite the club taking a youthful approach.
Ramsay, who signed on as coach in October following a highly successful six-year stint at Division 1 rival Macleod, is setting the bar high for what will be a new-look Magpies line up in 2019.
Ben Fennell (Greensborough), Luke Collins (Bundoora), Joel McLellan (Panton Hill), Jake Potter (South Morang), Tyrone Leonardis (Watsonia) and Kye Declase (Hurstbridge) have all filed transfers from Montmorency Park over the summer.
Meanwhile, reigning best and fairest Ben Kennedy has signed with VFL outfit Williamstown. The gun midfielder, who also finished runner-up in the Coaches MVP voting last year, will play with Montmorency when VFL commitments permit.
Despite the significant list turnover, Ramsay is bullish about the Magpies’ prospects for the upcoming campaign and is aiming to break a finals drought that extends back to 2014.
“We expect to finish top three. That’s the goal,” Ramsay told NFNL.org.au.
“We don’t expect players to just be developing this year. This is no five-year plan or anything.
“There are probably five senior players who could play in the interleague side, so that’s a really healthy number.
“At this stage their behaviours are really good so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be finishing in the top three.
“I think it’s going to be a very even competition. I don’t think any matches you go into thinking ‘we’re definitely going to win’ or ‘we’re horrible underdogs’.”
Two-time league representative Jai Robinson has joined from Whittlesea, while 2017 best and fairest Billy Jenkin has returned from a year away in a welcome boost to the club’s defensive stocks.
Skipper Jesse Donaldson and Stephen McCallum have been standouts on the training track as they look to bounce back from interrupted 2018 seasons.
Given the amount of top-end talent still on the list, Ramsay has opted against recruiting heavily, choosing instead to give opportunities to the club’s developing crop of youngsters to complement the existing talent.
The Magpies last year uncovered Sam Binion and Blake Murphy as stars of the future, with Binion finishing fourth in the best and fairest in his debut season. Meanwhile, the under-19s took out the Division 1 premiership.
“The whole goal is to build sustained success,” Ramsay said.
“Realistically the list over the last few years hasn’t been able to get the job done, so we’ll change the model.
“It’d be a different matter if I was walking into an environment where they had played finals over a long period of time and I probably wouldn’t change too much.
“The committee has been fantastic and have given me a clean slate to do what I have to do and have backed me up 100 percent. I’m excited because I’m able to go down the path that I want to.”
Montmorency has bolstered its coaching stocks over the summer, with former Whittlesea coach Jim Atkins joining as midfield coach, while ex-Hurstbridge mentor Jono Manzoney will oversee the back line.
Both have been assistants to Ramsay during his tenure as NFNL representative coach – a role he will continue in 2019.
Ramsay said he was enjoying coaching in a new environment and believes Montmorency’s playing group was responding well to the change in management.
“It’s exciting that a lot of my key points and key messages haven’t been heard before and are new teaching,” he said.
“I love football coaching. I could have a team in the Sahara Desert and I’d still love football coaching.
“The environment is fantastic and there are plenty of young talented players at the club.”
Montmorency will play three practice matches ahead of its Round 1 visit to neighbour Lower Plenty.
The Magpies play away to Blackburn on March 16, travel to North Ringwood on March 23 before hosting Cheltenham the following week.