WHITE Hills coach Brent Millar is preparing to invest plenty of time into the club’s youth in the Heathcote District league this season.
The Demons are coming off a season in which they made the finals last year, but Millar acknowledges his team is likely to face a challenging 2018 campaign.
“This year we’re all about investing in our kids, but we certainly know that it’s going to be a challenging year when you look at the talent we’ve lost from last year,” said Millar, who is coaching the Demons for a second season.
“We as a club don’t have the finances to compete with those top teams, so the focus for us is all about our kids, who are going to get the opportunity to get some significant senior football into them this year, which we think will offer some long-term sustainability.
“The good thing is the kids all want to really be here and that has been reflected in our training, which has been really positive.
“I’ve really challenged the boys with a tough pre-season and they have really taken all the work on with enthusiasm, which is reassuring following our losses.”
Among the departures from last year’s list are 2017 captain Jake Ward to Kyneton, leading goalkicker Sean Christopher, Hayden Wright (overseas), Lachlan Furness (South Bendigo), Matt Lehane (retired following a second knee reconstruction), Jason Curtain (retired) and ruckman Lachlan Sidebottom (Inglewood).
Sidebottom was the Heathcote District’s inter-league ruckman last year.
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“A lot of those guys were our tall brigade, so that will present a challenge for us,” Millar said.
Among the recruits joining the Demons is Rory Cunningham, who like Millar previously played at Colbinabbin.
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Cunningham was an inter-league player in 2011 with Heathcote District when it defeated Horsham District and will play across half-back for the Demons.
The Demons have also added young forward Jordan Waldron from Golden Square.
Waldron has played the past three years with the Bulldogs’ under-18s, kicking 122 goals.
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The Demons will play two practice matches in the lead-up to the season against Marong on March 16 and reigning North Central league premier Wycheproof-Narraport on March 29.
The Demons will open their season against the team they copped a 122-point hiding off in last year’s elimination final – Huntly. The Demons and Hawks will clash at Huntly on April 7.
This season marks 30 years since White Hills won its last senior premiership with a 22-point victory over Stanhope in the 1988 grand final.