THE Bendigo Dragons have returned to the practice field for the first time this year in their quest for an elusive Gridiron Victoria title.
Sunday marked day one of pre-season training with good numbers hitting the field at Bendigo South East College.
Among those to hit the track were returning two-time All-Victorian quarterback Lucas Elliston, nose tackle Brenton Sinclair, and the Dragons' two soon-to-be Victorian representatives Zac Caldwell and John Rogerson.
There was also a sprinkling of new faces, including new import Jeremy Aquino.
The Colorado native only arrived in Australia on Saturday but was eager to get down to business imparting some knowledge on his new teammate from his days spent playing as a defensive end at Colorado Mesa University.
If first impressions count, the Dragons could be in for a big season, with Aquino impressed with what he saw during the club's first outing.
"They are more athletic than it would have expected - it's surprisingly similar to a lot of the atmospheres of been around previously for football," he said.
"People actually grasp the concept of what's going on, which is extremely helpful.
"Overall I can definitely see why they win a lot of games."
Aquino, who played five seasons with the Mavericks in the division two Rocky Mountains Athletic Conference, will take on a defensive coaching role with the Dragons and said he was committed to upgrading their pass rush.
"I think I can help make some of the existing (defensive) linemen better," he said.
"I also want to ensure people are having fun playing.
"It doesn't matter where they are playing at I'll do my best to help them out."
The Dragons are yet to appoint a new head-coach to replace Mike Hughes, who was the division two coach of the year in 2015.
Under Hughes, the Dragons come within one win of a berth in the Vic Bowl the last two seasons.
Matthew Plathe, who will combine an on-field role with offensive co-ordinator duties this season, said atoning for their premature finals exit in the past two seasons would motivate the group during pre-season.
"We keep falling short in that semi-final game - a couple of losses in the last couple of minutes - it's a bit heartbreaking," he said.
"We're confident we can overcome it this season.
"Hopefully the guys can keep pushing, it always kind of been the luck of the draw.
"We're hoping the cards fall our way this year and we get the win."
Sunday's session was the first opportunity for players top trial the club's new leverage blocking sled, which only recently arrived from the United States.
Training continues this Sunday at BSE at 10am.