Coach: Matt Dillon (2nd year)
Last year: 2nd - 15-4
Arrivals: Toby Gray, Shane Harris, Joel Helman, Brady Herdman, Jake Hyland.
Departures: Sean Christopher, Sam Demeo, Troy Kelm, Jeremy Mills, Sean Morris.
Player points: 40
Last flag: 2016
R1: v Huntly (h)
R2: v L'ville-Gunbower (a)
R3: v White Hills (h)
R4: v Mount Pleasant (a)
Past five years:
2018: 2nd - 15-4
2017: 2nd - 16-3
2016: 1st - 17-3
2015: 1st - 17-3
2014: 2nd - 16-2
Last season's MVP top 5:
Jarrod Findlay - 41
Jeremy Mills - 40
Sean Morris - 39
Troy Kelm - 38
Darcy Richards - 38
Last season's top 5 goalkickers:
Tyson Findlay - 51
Sean Morris - 46
Darcy Richards - 43
Sean Christopher - 38
Jeremy Mills - 35
Q and A with coach Matt Dillon
The club has been right at the pointy end for the past seven years with six grand finals and a preliminary final. Given the nucleus remains it would seem the Bulldogs are well positioned to remain one of the top contenders.
"We've kept a really good core of players together for a while. We had a bit of changeover of players going into last year, so it's good to have a year under our belt with the group we've got and training has gone really well.
"We think there's the opportunity to be right up there in September again."
Someone is going to have some big shoes to fill in the ruck following the departure of Troy Kelm. Who will that be?
"Having Kelmy in the ruck was probably our big point of difference last year.
"Without that point of difference this year we've tried to strengthen our midfield and forward line a bit more.
"We've got guys like Ryan Gow, Jeremy Lambden and Brodie Thomson who can all play in the ruck, so it's not as though we have been left without a ruckman.
"Kelmy leaves a hole, but we're comfortable we have the guys there who can fill the void and take on the challenge."
After a short-lived retirement of one season, how do you expect Brady Herdman to slot back into football this year?
"He's training really hard and looking really fit and he will be firing to go come round one.
"He has been a big part of the premiership success the club has had over the past few years, so to have him walk back through the doors is huge.
"He has fitted straight back in, he's so well respected and will really add plenty of leadership to the forward line."
Six grand finals and a preliminary final over the past seven years speaks to North Bendigo's capacity to consistently put a high quality team on the park.
That should be the case again this year, even with two huge outs in what was the competition's best ruckman, Troy Kelm, and goalkicking midfielder Jeremy Mills, who was runner-up in last year's Cheatley Medal.
The Bulldogs shouldn't be lacking any drive this year given they've had the pre-season to stew over a poor 20 minutes of poor football in the second quarter that cost them dearly in last year's nine-point grand final loss to arch-rival Leitchville-Gunbower - the second year in a row they've been thwarted by the Bombers.
Star forward Brady Herdman and utility Joel Helman are two former Bulldogs' players returning to Atkins Street.
Herdman - who has won eight senior flags in his career - had a short-lived retirement last season, while the versatile Helman is back at the Bulldogs after playing last year at Cohuna where he won the Central Murray league best and fairest.
Herdman's return to the forward 50 is timely given the Bulldogs have lost three of their top five goalkickers of last season in Sean Morris (46), Sean Christopher (38) and Mills (35).
The Bulldogs have also welcomed former Inglewood captain Shane Harris and Jake Hyland - both who have played senior footy in the Bendigo league; Harris, who can play forward or back, at Golden Square, and on-baller Hyland at Kyneton.
With a wealth of talent on the list that features four league medallists in Tyson Findlay, Jarrod Findlay, Ben Knight and Helman, coupled with the league's No.1 home ground advantage having won 28 in a row at Atkins Street, expect the Bulldogs to yet again be featuring deep into finals as the league has been accustomed to.
Practice matches - v Mallee Eagles (March 23 at North Bendigo), North Bendigo Country Football Challenge (May 29-31).
Coach: Ellena Findlay (second year)
Last year: Seventh
Arrivals: Dayna McGough, Olivia Thomas, Alicia Harvey, Meg McGlone, Amy Holmes, Ash Alford.
Departures: Jane Reid, Amber Weston, Emma Lucas, Ruby Scanlon.
Coaching panel: Ellena Findlay (A-grade and A-reserve); Rhianna Broadbent (B-grade); Brittany Shannon (B-reserve).
Last five years: Seventh (2018); seventh (2017); third (2016); runners-up (2015); premiers (2014).
Q and A with Ellena Findlay
The inclusion of Dayna McGough, from Eaglehawk, looks like being a real bonus for North Bendigo?
"We are really stoked about that. I don't think she was going to play at all this year, but she plays footy with our North girls, so we thought there was no harm in asking her to play netball too. There are a lot of good players who have come into the league; every (club) seems to have lifted that bit more, which is good for the league."
Six of your 12 losses last season came by under six goals - including three-straight to start the year -and two more by under 9 goals. Is there a feeling your win-loss record might have been a bit misleading?
"Last year was a tough year because we had so many close losses. Going that one or two goals extra will be an aim. We'll certainly be trying a few new things, but it's not until the season actually gets started that you know how these things will go. I thought we went a lot better than things looked. I definitely hoped to sneak into finals last year, but those small margins were pretty costly at the start of the year. It was a bit heartbreaking after the fifth one, but the girls were really good about it, they kept pushing along all year and tried their hearts out."
"With six new players in total across A-grade and A-reserve do you feel the list is stronger this season?
"I do ...even in the lower grades we'll have people coming up and going down, so those squads are looking stronger too. We're already strong in those grades, but hopefully we'll be even better. We will obviously need to be with plenty of fresh faces coming into the league."
North Bendigo will head into the season with plenty of fresh faces and full of optimism, hoping to end a two-year hiatus from finals.
It was a case of what might have been for coach Ellena Findlay and her Bulldogs side in 2018, who dropped six games by less than six goals throughout the season on their way to a 4-12 mark.
Three of those losses - against Leitchville-Gunbower (three goals), and finalists Mount Pleasant (four) and Huntly (five) - came in the opening three rounds.
It took the Bulldogs until round five to get on the board against Lockington-Bamawm United, but their 1-4 start proved costly in the wash-up.
The Bulldogs will return just three regulars from last season's A-grade line-up - Lara Daly, Rhianna Broadbent and Sam McDougall - but have recruited well, with the ins spearheaded by class former Eaglehawk goal shooter Dayna McGough, Alicia Thomas and the returning Ash Alford.
McGough stamped herself as one of the premier goal shooters in the BFNL during her time with Eaglehawk and will shape as a key figure in her first season at Atkins Street.
The Bulldogs have warmed up for the season with a weekly series of practice matches against Loddon Valley club Newbridge, with Findlay pleased with how her new-look side has come together.
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