Bendigo Football Club coach Aussie Jones says being competitive next VFL season is a non-negotiable for the Gold.
Jones is in the midst of putting together the playing list for next season, the Gold’s first in a decade without its Essendon alignment.
Jones accepts he’ll have a young squad, but he won’t cop below standard performances and has put the onus on the coaching staff, which includes assistants Mark Adamson and Daniel Schmidt, to develop players as quickly as possible.
“I’ve challenged them already, we need to get the most out of ourselves to get the most out of these kids,” Jones said.
“That’s the real challenge, because competitiveness is something that is not negotiable.
“But we also understand we’re going to be young and inexperienced, similar to what the Bendigo sides have been before, but we think we’ve learnt a bit through that and we’re going to have enough quality footballers on the park to keep us in the hunt.”
The Gold announced the signings of South Bendigo’s Tom Hams and Steven Stroobants on Wednesday and Jones expects to unveil more players after Monday’s information night at the club’s Epsom training ground.
“I’m probably up to a couple of hundred players that have passed through my desk and we expect 50 or 60 to be at the night next week, with about 20 apologies already,” he said.
Jones said the players attending the information night are about “half-and-half” Bendigo players and footballers from out of town.
“We’ve looked everywhere. To be honest I don’t know if some guys are going to be good enough or not, but the form they’ve been showing at their local club was certainly enough to come in and for us to have a look at it.
“We’ve probably got between eight to 12 new players coming up from Melbourne on top of our current list as well.
“What (they’ve) appreciated is the fact that we’re going to be stand-alone. Those 22 spots each week, without being dictated too by an AFL club, is a really strong point for us.”
While Jones wants as many Bendigo-based players as possible next season, the club will soon announce a Melbourne-based coach to train players away from the main squad.
The rookie VFL coach has not thought about what a pass mark in terms of wins and losses will be in 2013, but wants spectators to leave matches knowing the team gave its all.
“For me, it’ll be that when people walk away from Bendigo games that we left no stone unturned and we had a crack. We haven’t got a great record here at the QEO, I think if we can turn that around that will certainly be a plus,” Jones said.
“(The Bendigo community) need to be aware that we’re realistic with our expectations as well.”
Pre-season training for the Gold’s younger players begins on October 30, before the rest of the squad joins on November 12.
Jones said it’s not too late for players who want to have a crack at playing VFL to get in touch with the club.
“As hard as we’ve worked, there’s still guys out there we want to talk to and it can be confidential as well.”