COACH: Brad Spear (second year)
LAST YEAR: Ninth
Jack Baker, Andre Headberry, Connor Kilbane, Clinton Young, Ryan Higginbotham.
Shannon Rooth, Ollie Messaoudi.
Sportsbet flag odds: $21
Player points: 45
R1: v Kyneton (a)
R2: v South Bendigo (h)
R3: v Kangaroo Flat (a)
R4: v Strathfieldsaye (h)
LAST FIVE YEARS
2016: Ninth (3-15)
2015: Sixth (6-12)
2014: Third (14-7)
2013: Fourth (11-7)
2012: Second (16-4-1)
GISBORNE will continue along its path of rebuilding with another young side to take to the field this season.
A year ago the Bulldogs went into the season with one of the youngest lists in the club’s proud history.
The result was three wins and some ugly looking scoreboards, including one four game period where they kicked just 14 goals.
While the Bulldogs will be based around a team of pups again, the young players now have a year of senior football under their belt that can only hold them in good stead heading into 2017.
The Bulldogs have added the biggest-name recruit of the competition in Hawthorn’s 2008 premiership player Clinton Young, whose experience at the top level will be invaluable to such a young group.
Former Collingwood player Matthew Goodyear (Footscray) and James Ferry (Essendon) have both aligned themselves with the Bulldogs as VFL players, while mobile tall Andrew Headberry, a 2012 grand final player with Gisborne, is back at the club.
There are only two names on the departure list, one of which is one of the club’s – and the BFNL’s – great warriors in Ollie Messaoudi, who has joined Riddell.
Q & A with Brad Spear
Q: The amount of youth in the Gisborne side has been well documented over the past year. What areas do you expect to see the most improvement in this season?
We are still really young, but obviously 12 months older.
The inclusions that have come to the club are going to make us more competitive, but I really believe the additional 12 months with all the young kids from last year is where the real growth and improvement is going to come from.
Some weren't quite ready for seniors last year and it was a shame we had to put them in that situation, but it forced them to grow a bit and we will start to see the benefits of that this year.
Coach: Guy Keane (new)
Last year: Fourth
Ella Bertacchini (Rosedale), Holly Burnett (Macedon), Sammi Cooke (returning from injury), Claire Anderson (returning from injury), Keara Fitzgerald (17-and-under), Tillie Avery.
Mel Harris (work commitments), Ellie Newman (work commitments), Maddy Gay (year off).
A-reserve: Nathan Thompson
B-grade: Rylee Connell
B-reserve: Jodie Banna
17-and-under: Madeline Stewart and Tarryn Rymer
LAST THREE YEARS
A REGULAR finals contender in recent seasons, Gisborne hopes to take the next step under new coach Guy Keane.
The Bulldogs have finished no lower than fourth since last winning the premiership in 2013 and appear to have strengthened their playing list considerably over the off-season.
In comes Ella Bertacchini, who won the North Gippsland Football Netball League best and fairest last season with Rosedale and was an under 21 state representative.
The Bulldogs have also lured Holly Burnett from Macedon and regained Sammi Cooke and Claire Anderson from injury.
They add to a core group that includes last season's league best and fairest runner-up Madeline Stewart, Rylee Connell and Tarryn Rymer that should again challenge for a top four spot.
"It's a very different side - a lot of changes - but there's a lot of strength in there," said Stewart, who will continue to play VNL this year, but will available for most Gisborne matches.
"We're quite young, but there's a lot of development left in the group."
Keara Fitzgerad, an under-17 premiership player last year, will make the step up to A-grade under Keane, who has played men's netball at national and international level and is the current coach and umpire development manager for Netball Victoria.
Q & A with Maddie Stewart
Q: What has your new coach Guy Keane brought to the club?
He trained the whole club together through pre-season and now he's working mainly with the A and A-reserve teams. It's something very different for him (coaching a country club), but he's fitted in really well. Everybody's really enjoying training.
Q: How is the 17-and-under team (last season's premiers) you coach with Tarryn Rymer shaping?
The two sisters we had last year (Ash and Charlie Cole) have gone overseas with their family, so we've lost them. We've had one player go up to A-grade (Keara Fitzgerald), but we have the same core we've had the last couple of years. There will be a lot of strength and we do have a lot of younger ones coming through, so we're looking forward to developing them.