SOUTH BENDIGO FOOTBALL
COACH: Brady Childs (second year)
LAST YEAR: Eighth
Kaiden Antonowicz, Joel Swatton, Tom Brereton, Zac Hare, Brock Harvey, James Oliver, Daniel Johnstone, Nathan Devanny, Regan Harvey, Mitch Gardner, Cameron Taggert, Riley Burns, Lewin Davis.
Rory Alexander, Matt Chisari, Josh Whelan, Charles Trotman.
Sportsbet flag odds: $21
Player points: 43
R1: v Eaglehawk (h)
R2: v Gisborne (a)
R3: v Maryborough (h)
R4: v Castlemaine (a)
LAST FIVE YEARS
2016: Eighth (5-13)
2015: Ninth (4-14)
2014: Tenth (2-16)
2013: Sixth (9-6-1)
2012: Fifth (11-8)
SOUTH Bendigo will be striving to build on an encouraging finish to last year.
Of the Bloods’ five wins last year, three came in their final three games to end 2016 on a positive note in coach Brady Childs’ first season at the helm.
There’s a host of new faces at the Bloods this season that is going to boost competition for spots.
Among them is lively forward Kaiden Antonowicz, a 2014 premiership team-mate of Childs at the Shepparton Swans.
As well as Antonowicz, the Bloods have also added key target Daniel Johnstone to a forward line that last year averaged just 10 goals per game.
Onballer Joel Swatton is back with the Bloods after a year away, while ruckman Riley Burns and Lewin Davis are two new Bendigo Pioneer-aligned players.
But what is significant for the Bloods is the return of several players whose 2016 was soured by injury.
Childs didn’t get on the park at all last year in his recovery from a knee reconstruction stemming from 2015, Aaron Connaughton – now a co-captain with Kieran Strachan – missed the last seven games with a torn medial ligament and defender Adrian Coad only played two senior games.
Q & A with Brady Childs
Q: From five wins last season, where do you envisage South Bendigo being able to take the biggest step forward this year?
Given we won five games last year and lost another five by under four goals, it's all about continued development from the younger guys.
The younger guys are another year older, they've had a big pre-season, so they are fitter and stronger.
With some additions to the forward line in Antonowicz and Johnstone, it's going to give us the ability to kick a few more goals.
And we've got a lot more depth. We've got about 60 on our list and in our practice matches we've had a from bench of eight guys, most of who played senior footy last year.
SOUTH BENDIGO NETBALL
Coach: Benita Swatton (second year)
Last year: Ninth
Emily Cossar (Sandhurst), Chloe Adams (Kerang), Jordan Sutton, Lorrae Closter (Ballarat league), Susie Cockroft.
Sarah Nash (White Hills), Ash Strachan (Bridgewater), Eden Gadsden (university), Holly Frew (returned to Ballarat).
A squad: Benita Swatton
B squad: Kiralee Beacham
17-and-under and 17-and-under development: Liz Taylor
Netball operations: Melissa Dillon
LAST THREE YEARS
AFTER winning only two games last season, things are on the way up for South Bendigo.
Benita Swatton returns for a second season as coach, and unlike last season when she stepped into the role just a few weeks before the season, will have the benefit of a year in the position and a full-pre-season.
And a busy pre-season it was too, with the Bloods playing six practice matches against a mix of Heathcote District and Loddon Valley league clubs.
That tally would have risen to seven had another against Mitiamo not been rained out.
A hectic schedule of pre-season games should leave a new-look Bloods battle-hardened and sharp for their season opener against expected improvers Eaglehawk.
"We're feeling really positive. It's been a long, hard pre-season, but I believe we are ready to go," said Swatton.
The Bloods have lost last sesaon's captain Sarah Nash (White Hills) and Ash Strachan (Bridgewater), but in their place come Emily Cossar (Sandhurst), Chloe Adams (Kerang) and Lorrae Closter, who was previously captain-coach of Beaufort and last season played in the Ballarat league.
Q&A with Benita Swatton
Q: It looks like you have a had a busy pre-season?
We definitely had a good pre-season. Being a largely brand new group, we have had a lot of practice matches (against Colbinabbin, North Bendigo, Bridgewater Newbridge, YCW, Huntly). We've given everyone plenty of court time. The squad is looking good and should be pretty competitive this year.
Q: Sounds like there will be plenty of improvement this season?
Definitely. We're quite tall at both ends of the court. With a bit of luck we'll be pushing for finals. That's our goal. It's been a while. I know with our B-grade B-res making the grand final last year it had been quite a long time. But we're definitely positive.