Coaches: Derrick Filo (3rd year) and Shawn Filo (new)
Last year: 10th - 1-17
Arrivals: Thomas Brasher, Corey Burnett, Mitch Dance, Daniel Easson, Matt Filo, Mitch Hough, Jordan Matera, Angus Monfries, Brent Simons, Sam Simpson.
Departures: Alex Banko, Sam Banko, Zac Denahy, Thomas Hedley, Kalan Huntly, Darby Semmens, Joel Smith.
Player points: 47
Last flag: 2000
R1: v Gisborne (h)
R2: v Maryborough (a)
R3: v Kyneton (h)
R4: v Eaglehawk (a)
Past five years:
2018: 10th - 1-17
2017: 9th - 2-16
2016: 7th - 7-11
2015: 7th - 6-12
2014: 9th - 3-15
Last season's MVP top 5:
Jake O'Brien - 48
Kalan Huntly - 36
Braidon Blake - 34
Dylan Atkins - 32
Tyler Gavralas - 28
Last season's top 5 goalkickers:
Fabian Brancatisano - 12
Jake O'Brien - 9
Jack Chester - 8
Braidon Blake - 7
William Moran - 7
Q and A with co-coach Derrick Filo
What gives you the biggest cause for optimism that you can be a far more competitive team this year?
"On paper we've improved the quality of the squad. There's always going to be ins and outs, but we've kept eight out of our top 10 in the best and fairest of last year.
"No doubt Kalan Huntly is going to be a huge loss, but it's probably the highest retention rate we've had at the club for a long time.
"Keeping most of our top 10 in the best and fairest, and then bringing in another nine or so players means our list quality is going to be stronger and there's a bit more stability because we've been able to keep our recruits from last year and they've now had a year together.
"We think our overall quality is really good."
Given the team is coming from such a long way back from last year's poor season, what do you consider a realistic goal to set for this year?
"We think with the players we have on board and some more development in the younger players... we don't want to set ridiculous targets, but we don't want to set a ceiling either.
"We want to be in a position where we're challenging for finals. We know we're coming from a long way back, but last year we had a complete turnover of the list after losing something like 27 players.
"It was basically a new team last year and were a bit stiff with some injuries. We were really young last year, but we've brought in some experience, which we needed to."
The name that has created the most buzz at Castlemaine is Angus Monfries. What has he brought to the club since you've signed him?
"It has created a bit of excitement for the town and our local players can see that there is a real reason to hit the track.
"But it hasn't been just Angus, it has been bringing half-a-dozen fairly handy players in as well that helps to breed a bit of confidence within the group."
It's a long haul back for Castlemaine from last year's 1-17 season where the Magpies' average losing margin was 128 points.
The only way is up for the Magpies and bringing in former Essendon and Port Adelaide player Angus Monfries is a strong start to improving their list.
Monfries played 211 AFL games over 13 years at the top level and is going to be a mighty tough match-up for opposition backmen inside forward 50.
But it's not just Monfries who will give the Magpies' front half a more imposing look to it.
Also among their recruits is Mitch Dance, a mobile key forward, and the big-bodied Brent Simons is another new focal point.
But while the Magpies look to have more attacking options than last year when they averaged just 38 points per game, their forward recruits are only going to be able to impact if the ball can get down there.
To that end, the Magpies have also bulked up their midfield depth with the arrivals of new assistant coach Mitch Hough, Daniel Easson, Matt Filo and Jordan Matera - the son of West Coast Eagles' 1992 Norm Smith medallist Peter Matera.
Filo - the son of co-coach Shawn Filo - joins the Magpies from Kangaroo Flat, while he played in Eaglehawk's 2017 grand final team, and Hough is a familiar name in the BFNL having previously played at the Roos and also been on the Bendigo Gold's list.
The midfield does have a significant out though, with Kalan Huntly, who was on Essendon's VFL list last year and described by coach Derrick Filo as one of the top six players in the BFNL in 2017, has signed with Barham.
Hopefully, for the sake of not only Castlemaine but for the betterment of the league the Magpies' productive off-season can translate to a far more competitive showing and the regular 20-goal plus hidings they were dealt 10 times last season are put behind them.
Practice matches - v Mount Pleasant (March 30 at Castlemaine).
Related: Special offer footy and netball fans
Last year: Did not contest A-grade
Arrivals: Bridie Semmens, Rachelle McLean.
Departures: Chloe Langley
Coaching panel: Rebecca Slater (B-grade and B-reserve); Jessica Cox (17-and-under); Julie Turn (assistant coach); Julie Turn and Sharon Dredge (BSNA development teams).
Last five years: No A-grade team (2018); 10th (2017); 10th (2016); 10th (2015); ninth (2014).
Q and A with netball manager Jen Oxley
Obviously a disappointment to have no A-grade team again, but how has the pre-season been?
"We have brought fun back to netball pre-season in 2019, with improved fitness and teamwork.
"The Castlemaine and District Netball Association Junior Development Squad and CFNC netball have collaborated to encourage junior players to remain playing in and for Castlemaine.
"We are fielding younger players in the lower sections to build for the future. Pre-season training started in the first week of January under the direction of pre-season coaching director Bob Gartside.
"We have built a fit netball squad who train together well with a few laughs. Practice matches against Huntly have identified areas for improvement and given the players confidence in their fitness to play a game out.
"Our under-17s fared well at the Rochester Invitational tournament on the weekend."
For the second season in a row, Castlemaine will not be fielding a team in the A-grade competition.
But the Magpies will be represented in A-reserve, B-grade, B-reserve and 17-and-under competitions and hoping to increase their number of wins from last year.
The Magpies warmed up for the season by entering teams in both the open and 17-and-under sections of the Community Bank Rochester Invitational tournament on March 23, gaining some valuable court time and match play.
The most notable loss from last season's playing squad is Chloe Langley, who will line up with South Bendigo's A-grade team this season.
Langley will later this season represent Victoria at the 2019 National Netball Championships in Brisbane, after being named in the 12-player squad late last year. The championships will be held in April.
The Magpies, however, have welcomed back Bridie Semmens and Rachelle McLean, who were placed second and third respectively in Kangaroo Flat's 17-and-under best and fairest award last season, behind league medal winner Ella Wicks.
Semmens was equal fourth and McLean fifth in the league medal count.
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