SANDHURST is shaping as a side that will give opposition backlines plenty of headaches in the Bendigo Football League this year.
With the addition of Ryan Haythorpe to Ricky Symes, Matt Thornton and Jake Ward, the Dragons will boast four key forward options this year.
Symes (73), Thornton (11) and Ward (22) kicked 106 goals between them last year, while Haythorpe returns to the Dragons after dominating in the Loddon Valley Football League with Mitiamo.
Haythorpe, who kicked 307 goals over the previous four years with Mitiamo, last played with Sandhurst in 2004 - the year the Dragons won their last premiership.
“It looks like we’re going to have a fairly handy forward line, but we’ll obviously have to get the structure right,” Sandhurst coach Shane Meade said yesterday.
“You can’t have three centre half-forwards all playing at once, so there might be a situation where there’s a couple of six-foot-four blokes playing on a wing or across half-back.
“All of those guys, apart from probably Ricky, are mobile and can play anywhere on the ground, so we’ll have some options.
“Getting Ryan back to the club is fantastic, especially as he has played in a winning grand final for us, so that experience is important.
“But also the experience he brings with how much footy he has played is what we need because most of our guys are going to be under the age of 25.
“He wanted to come back to Sandhurst and we’re very happy he has decided to.”
Also joining the Dragons this year are the Shepparton Bears’ duo of Luke O’Sullivan and Andrew O’Connor.
“They are two blokes who can play anywhere. They are about six-foot-two, young and move around well, so they are good gets for us,” Meade said.
“What we’ve wanted to do is have pressure on all spots. So for every key position we’ve got a back-up, which hopefully, will hold us in good stead.”
Other recruits to the Dragons, who were knocked out of the finals in straight sets last year, include ruckman Tim Martin and fellow tall Ben Anderson.
The other key news out of Sandhurst over the off-season has been star midfielder and 2009 Michelsen medallist Lee Coghlan joining the Bendigo Gold.
However, Meade says the Dragons hope to still get enough games out of Coghlan to qualify him for finals, should Sandhurst make the top five.
“He’ll definitely play three or four games for us, then we’ll only need another one or two on top that,” Meade said.
“And then it’ll be a case of hoping he doesn’t over-qualify for Bendigo, which we’re pretty sure he won’t because he has other commitments with university, so I’m pretty confident he’ll be playing finals for us.”
While Coghlan has gone to the Gold, full-back Mal Borchard has retired after more than 200 games with the Dragons, and centre half-back Jake Wilkinson has joined Numurkah.
The Dragons have practice matches on March 9, 16 and 23 against Tatura, who won last year’s Goulburn Valley Football League premiership, Rochester and Montmorency.
“We’re fairly happy with how things are going along at the moment,” said Meade, who has taken over as Dragons coach from Tony Graham.
“We’ve been getting good numbers at training, we’ll have depth in our reserves and our under-18s will be strong again. But it’s only February.”
The Dragons begin their 2013 season on Sunday, April 7, against Eaglehawk at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.