Bundoora coach Andrew Sturgess believes a team-first approach will enable his side to cover the departure of several key players this Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 season.
The Bulls waved goodbye to a host of senior players this summer, including former playing-coach Ricky Dyson, Josh and Nick Grabowski, Liam Byrne, Joseph Palazzolo, Jack Furlong, Damandeep Aujla and Ben Nesci.
Talented duo Dale Marshall and Daniel Guccione have been added to Essendon’s VFL squad, while recruits Ray Connellan and Peter McEvoy will only be available when VFL commitments allow.
Despite the significant list turnover, Sturgess said adopting a “know your role” mentality would help the Bulls in their quest for a 19th consecutive finals berth.
“We’ve focused on implementing a solid game plan and play our system and understand what everyone’s role is within that and just train it,” Sturgess told NFNL.org.au.
“I think our players would say our training is boring and repetitive. But if I was to ask any of our players right now what our game plan looks like, they would all be able to explain it really well across the board.
“Footy is shifting a bit now and gone are the days of one or two guys winning it off their own boot. You rarely see a player doing it all on their own.
“We’ve had a real focus over pre-season on a system game plan. That includes ball movement, defence and guys just playing their role.
“I don’t care how talented they are. If they can play their role, are of good character and fit our values, I’ll pick character over talent any day of the week.
“What it’s done for the whole group is that everybody feels like they’ve got equal opportunity to stake their claim in senior football.”
Bundoora’s list has been bolstered by the signing of star on-baller Daniel Venditti.
The three-time Coburg best and fairest will be joined at Yulong Reserve by ex-Footscray and Sandringham listed-player Sam Willatt, Montmorency midfielder Luke Collins, Avondale Heights defender Matthew Evans and Whittlesea’s Brenton Briffa.
Youngsters Jacob Maynes, Bailey Thompson and John Jorgensen will also be in contention for senior selection after impressing throughout pre-season.
Content with the talent that has been added to the playing list, Sturgess said he was equally pleased by the coaching group that has been assembled for his first senior coaching gig.
Nathan Thomas has stepped up to playing-assistant, while Lalor legend Steven Marshall has also signed on as a senior assistant and will be in charge from the sidelines on game day when Sturgess is on the field.
Former Coburg assistant coach Adam Paterson has joined as backline coach, while 2011 premiership player Paul Harrison returns to the club as forward coach.
The Bulls’ experienced midfield will coach themselves, however skipper Brent Marshall will manage the group from the sidelines early in the season as he recovers from a pre-season injury.
Sturgess said the importance of sharing the coaching load was instilled in him during his time as an assistant at Coburg.
“Being under Peter German’s guidance and Leigh Adams, I’m pretty lucky that they allowed me to work so closely with them that I felt I was doing some senior responsibilities under their guidance,” he said.
“That’s a real credit to them to hand over responsibility to me to lead certain things in an assistant’s role and that’s something that I am trying to adopt over pre-season this year, to hand over responsibility to my assistants.
“Every Thursday night now one of my assistants will lead training and I’ll take a back step and will train.
“I think the team that I’ve got around me has made the job a lot easier. If I didn’t have them around me, it probably would be a bit overwhelming. But it hasn’t felt that way, one, because of the player buy in and then two, the assistants I’ve got around me.”
Bundoora faces a tough start to its 2019 campaign, taking on each of last year’s finalists in the opening six rounds.
Sturgess expected the early rounds would give his new-look side a good indication of where it sits in the pecking order.
“Whether it be the first six weeks or the last six weeks, you’ve got to play them at some stage,” he said.
“I think it will give us a good indication of where we sit, and an indication of where other teams sit as well.
“Like any other team you want a good start to build a platform and a winning culture, is a good culture. It’s infectious.
“Whoever we’re up against, we’re going to focus on what our system is and what we do well and how we want to defend against sides. I think if we can do that well, we’ll put ourselves in a position to be competitive most weeks.”
Bundoora took on Seymour in a practice match last Friday. The Bulls take on South Croydon this Saturday, ahead of a road trip to play Albury on March 23.