COACH: Wayne Primmer (second year)
LAST YEAR: Premiers
Andrew Collins, Oscar McKinley, Angus McKinley, Liam Ireland, Wayne Mitrovic, Jon Coghlan, Zac East, Rourke Turner.
James Coghlan, Brock Knights, Charlie Bowyer, Fergus Greene, Jake McLean.
Sportsbet flag odds: $1.55
Player points: 38
R1: v Strathfieldsaye (a)
R2: v Castlemaine (h)
R3: v Golden Square (a)
R4: v Kyneton (h)
LAST FIVE YEARS
2016: Premiers (18-2)
2015: Second (16-6)
2014: Second (18-4)
2013: Fifth (10-7)
2012: Fourth (13-6-1)
HAVING gone into the past two years spurred on by the disappointment of grand final defeat, this season presents a different dynamic for Sandhurst.
This year the Dragons enter the season as the team the pack is chasing as the reigning premiers, and they will start their flag defence as the red-hot favourites to make it back-to-back.
The Dragons were a dominant force last year, losing just two games, with the list in even better shape this season.
There has been some turnover from the premeirship side with defenders James Coghlan and Brock Knights gone and Lachlan Tardrew to again be on Collingwood’s VFL list.
The premiership departures were also to include Koe Ngawati, but coach Wayne Primmer understands he’s now staying.
Coming onto the list is the Bridgewater pair of Andrew Collins and Zac East plus Jon Coghlan – three players who have all played at the club previously and will deepen the Dragons’ envious midfield group even further.
Oscar and Angus McKinley from Bridgewater have also joined the Dragons, while a familiar face in the club’s 2004 premiership captain, Wayne Mitrovic, is back after a decade away.
Q & A with Wayne Primmer
Q: Carrying the tag as the reigning premier comes with a big target on your back every week as the hunted. Are the Dragons ready to embrace that and answer the challenge?
We've spoken about what will happen in that aspect and we've trained accordingly so we can handle it in regards to our fitness.
We know what's coming and that if we want to win games we have to turn up week in, week out, the same as we did last year, play the same way and keep the intensity up.
Having lost two grand finals in a row and then won one last year, the boys are certainly very keen to try to win another one.
I'm very happy with where our list is at. I think it's going to be tight to get a game.
Coaches: Tamara Gilchrist and Heather Oliver (new)
Last year: Third
Rebecca Smith (North Bendigo), Imogen Sexton (returning from injury).
Stacey Rothacker (Bridgewater), Julia Smith, Gemma Cusack, Annie Cobbledick (Melbourne).
A-reserve: Tamara Gilchrist
B-grade: Hayley Bolton
B-reserve: Rebecca Rodda
17-and-under: Jannaya Webb and Laura Parkhill
LAST THREE YEARS
AFTER two consecutive preliminary final appearances, Sandhust has turned to star player Heather Oliver and former North Bendigo premiership coach Tamara Gilchrist in a bid to take the next step.
The joint-coaches take charge of a battle-hardened A-grade squad that is high on class and skill and with the right mix of experience and use.
The Dragons boast some of the league's best players, with 2015 league best and fairest Oliver, midcourter Brooke Bolton and goal keeper Carly Van Den Heuvel all representing the BFNL last season.
Van Den Heuvel's absence with injury during last season's final series was a huge one.
Gilchrist has joined the Dragons after five prosperous seasons with North Bendigo and has lured goal shooting ace and regular North Central representative Rebecca Smith across with her.
Smith was the premier shooter in the Heathcote District league in recent seasons and Gilchrist said she was keen to take her game to another level in the BFNL.
"She's really rising to the challenge. I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of season she has with better teammates around her," the new co-coach said.
The Dragons also regain talented youngster Imogen Sexton from an ACL injury and have on the league's best young talents in Meg Williams.
The Dragons sharpened their skills in three pre-season games, against Heathcote District clubs White Hills and Huntly, and Loddon Valley club Mitiamo.
Q & A with Tamara Gilchrist
Q: After consecutive third place finishes, you'd be approaching the season with plenty of confidence?
Everyone is really keen to give the season a good crack. We've been training really hard and the vibe is really good. Everyone is feeding off each other with some good energy
Q. Anyone who has had a standout pre-season?
Kelsey Sartori has had a great pre-season and Meg Williams.
Q. How have you enjoyed working with your co-coach Heather Oliver?
It's been awesome. She has such great knowledge and I feel we work really well together. She brings so much experience and on-court depth and smarts to the team, just a great person to have around.