Coach: Nathan Horbury (new)
Last year: 7th - 7-10-1
Arrivals: Nathan Horbury, Shaun Doolan.
Departures: Kieran Strachan, Corey Daniels, Liam Bartels, Isaiah Miller, Mitch Rogerson, Quade Johnston, Nick Howe.
Player points: 43
Last flag: 1994
R1: v Maryborough (h)
R2: v Eaglehawk (a)
R3: v Sandhurst (h)
R4: v Golden Square (a)
Past five years:
2018: 7th - 7-10-1
2017: 6th - 9-9
2016: 8th - 5-13
2015: 9th - 4-14
2014: 10th - 2-16
Last season's MVP top 5:
Liam Bartels - 43
Isaiah Miller - 36
Brody Haddow - 35
Tom Brereton - 28
Joel Swatton - 26
Last season's top 5 goalkickers:
Kaiden Antonowicz - 76
Brock Harvey - 23
Liam Bartels - 12
Leroy Miller - 11
Braydan Torpey - 10
Q and A with coach Nathan Horbury
It's your first season in charge of the Bloods, how have you found your first pre-season with the club?
"It's been good, our numbers have been pretty good and the attitude of the players has been really good. It's a young group, but they've been really committed to the training sessions and we have a good fitness base under us.
"Hopefully, we can make a good start to the year."
Our understanding of Ballarat football is that it's more a contested brand of footy compared to Bendigo. What style of football can we expect the Bloods to play under your coaching?
"Ballarat is a lot colder and muddier than Bendigo so it lends itself to contested footy.
"We're a young side, so we want to move the ball quickly and be free-flowing. At the same time we want to be the most organised team out there. We need to know our limitations and know when we can move the ball quickly and when we need to slow things down."
With so much youth in your group is it hard to set goals or expectations for 2019?
"Every side wants to play finals and that's no different for us. We still have the quality to play finals. It won't be easy, but that's our goal."
It's going to be a tough initiation to coaching for new Bloods' mentor Nathan Horbury.
The Bloods lost a host of star players, particularly through the midfield with Kieran Strachan, Liam Bartels, Quade Johnston, Mitch Rogerson and Isaiah Miller moving on.
Horbury was one of the Ballarat Football League's premier midfielders and he'll be on the top shelf in Bendigo as well, but he'll carry a heavy load through the middle of the ground.
The door is open for some of the Bloods' young players to step up and fill midfield roles.
Will Keck, Braydan Torpey, Tom Brereton and Mitch Goodwin have shown some great signs in the past 12 months and they'll get more responsibility in 2019.
Kaiden Antonowicz is all class inside forward 50. He kicked 76 goals to win last year's Ron Best Medal, but his pre-season has been hampered by ankle surgery in November.
The Bloods expect him to play round one against Maryborough.
Teenager Will Allen has impressed in the pre-season and he looks filling a key forward role alongside Antonowicz.
Aside from Horbury, the Bloods other senior recruit is Shaun Doolan, a half-forward from Girgarre.
2013 was the last year the Bloods made the BFNL finals. September action is likely to elude the club again, but any team that has Horbury in the midfield and Antonowicz inside forward 50 is capable of causing more than the odd headache for the top five sides.
Coach: Jannelle Hobbs (second year)
Last year: Seventh
Arrivals: Chloe Langley, Danielle O'Toole, Julia Twigg.
Departures: Tegan Childs, Bri Maddern.
Coaching panel: Jannelle Hobbs (A-grade); Tara Everest (A-grade assistant); Kiralee Kinder (A-reserve); Liz Taylor (A-reserve assistant; Mel Dillon (B-grade); Paige Randall (B-grade assistant); Emma Tomlins (B-reserve); Chloe Adams (B-reserve assistant); Liz Taylor (17-and-under); Emily Cossar (17-and-under assistant).
Last five years: Seventh (2018); seventh (2017); ninth (2016); ninth (2015); ninth (2014).
Q and A with coach Jannelle Hobbs
You must be very happy with your recruiting, adding some height, athleticism and youth in all areas of the court?
"We've picked up Chloe Langley, from Castlemaine, who has just been picked in the Victorian 17-and-under team. She's a great young player, very tall - I'd say about six foot two - and very strong and a great goaler. That's what we really lacked last year, that height in goals. Danielle O'Toole is a midcourter, from Kangaroo Flat.
"She's been playing Braves basketball and didn't really play last year. She's a very athletic midcourter who has played for Victoria as well. And in defence we have Julia Twigg, from Mitiamo, a very good defender, who is nice and tall. She's been in the zone academy and through the Netball Victoria pathway as well. It's going to be a young team, but with what we had last year, I'm sure it's a good mix. We will be very tall up both ends (of the court)."
What has the pre-season schedule thrown up?
"We have played practice matches against Calivil United and Mitiamo. Especially against Calivil, the girls really clicked. The girls are all super-fit. We've been doing Bendigo Original Bootcamp on Tuesday nights and in the second half of those matches the girls just came on really strong.
"We had a tough few matches at the Rochester tournament and then Kangaroo Flat will be a good hit-out for us (this weekend) before our round one game against Maryborough."
Speaking of Maryborough, they were one of those three teams together with South Bendigo and Golden Square battling for that fifth sport at the end of the season. Getting off to a good start against the Magpies is a must, I'm sure?
"Obviously like everyone else we have our aim set on finals, after missing out on percentage last year. Maryborough has some great young players and are always tough to come up against, but we will be at home at the QEO.
"We do want to get off to a good start as we then have a very tough draw, with Eaglehawk and Sandhurst straight after that. I'm confident we can be competitive against those top teams and really surprise a few this year."
Personally, it's your second year as coach at South Bendigo. Has there been much different in your approach?
"The first year was always going to be about a lot of learning for the girls, but they have really improved. They have learned a lot about how we need to train and play to be up there with the best; this pre-season has been fantastic.
"We've also done a bit of 'mental/psychological' stuff and the girls are really confident they can now mix it with the best. And obviously we have changed our game plan a bit with a big six-foot goal shooter."
An injection of height, athleticism and youth will be the key ingredients South Bendigo coach Jannelle Hobbs hopes can bring an end to South Bendigo's A-grade finals drought.
The Bloods have not finished above seventh in each of the last five years, despite making plenty of gains in 2017 and again last year.
They were arguably unlucky not to reach finals last year, finishing the season level on wins with fifth-placed Golden Square and sixth-placed Maryborough after beating both sides in the second half of the season.
After years at the helm of Loddon Valley club YCW and Kangaroo Flat, it was a rare finals miss for Hobbs with her A-grade team.
It's a situation she has no plans of repeating and has every right to feel confident of avoiding.
South Bendigo has added an impressive array of young talent to an already remodelled and improved playing list.
The Bloods have lured recent Victorian under-17 state team selection Chloe Langley, from Castlemaine, giving them the tall and imposing goal shooter they have craved.
At the other end of the court, the Bloods have gained quality young defender Julia Twigg, who has come across from Loddon Valley club Mitiamo.
Another exciting proposition is former Kangaroo Flat midcourter Danielle O'Toole, who will split duties between netball and basketball with the Bendigo Braves.
If the Bloods can negotiate a tough first five weeks, with games against four of last year's finalists in Sandhurst, Eaglehawk, Golden Square and Gisborne included and snatch a win or two, they will set themselves up nicely for a top-five tilt.
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