A GOULBURN Valley league premiership defender, as well as four Bridgewater premiership players are among a host of recruits joining Sandhurst in the BFNL.
New Sandhurst coach Andrew Collins has unveiled eight recruits for the Dragons, which have a strong Bridgewater connection.
Joining the Dragons in 2018 are Zeb Broadbent, Taylor Strachan, Marc Lindsay and Callum Prest, who – along with Collins – have all played in Bridgewater flags in the Loddon Valley league.
Athletic ruckman Strachan (2012), wingman Prest (2015) and midfielder Broadbent (2016) have all won best-on-ground medals in victorious grand finals for the Mean Machine, while Lindsay is a premiership coach.
As well as the four Bridgewater premiership players – who between them have won 18 Mean Machine flags – the Dragons have also signed defender Jake Pallpratt, who was a member of Benalla’s winning GVFL grand final team in 2015 and has played under-19s for Victoria Country.
And the Dragons also have three former players returning to the club – Jake Wilkinson, Martin Leyden (2012 under-18 best and fairest) and John Harvey.
Harvey (Rochester), Wilkinson (Echuca) and Pallpratt – an ex-Murray Bushranger in the TAC Cup – are all coming to the Dragons from GVFL clubs, while Strachan and Prest both spent 2017 with Natte Bealiba, with Strachan winning the Swans’ best and fairest.
Wilkinson and Pallpratt will add to the Dragons’ defensive stocks, with Pallpratt likely to get plenty of big jobs on the opposition’s best small forward.
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Strachan will provide back-up in the ruck to dual Michelsen medallist Tim Martin, as well as a forward option, while Broadbent, Harvey, Prest, Leyden and Lindsay will all add further depth to the Dragons’ midfield group.
As well as the eight recruits, the Dragons will also have swingman Matt Thornton (broken foot) and on-baller Adam Parry (shoulder tendon) resuming from injuries that ended their 2017 seasons prematurely.
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Departures from the Dragons are Kristan Height (Whitefriars), Luke O’Sullivan (Dookie United), ruckman Lachlan Watson (Rochester) and Xavier Walsh (Colbinabbin).
“Retention was the biggest thing when I took over. We’ve got a good group of players and we haven’t lost too many,” Collins said.
“We’ve brought some fresh blood in who are all going to be really good players. It’s going to create more pressure for spots and that is healthy.”
After winning the 2016 premiership – their first since 2004 – the Dragons endured a wretched run with injuries this year and following a battle just to make the finals, ended the season fourth following a four-point loss to Golden Square in the first semi-final.
The Dragons won’t begin their pre-season training until January.
“With the long campaigns the club has had in recent years, the boys probably need a bit of a chance to freshen up,” Collins said.
“I’ll back myself to get the boys fit and firing in the three-and-a-half months before the season starts.”