DESPITE what has been a massive overhaul of players since the club played its last game, Leitchville-Gunbower coach Cameron Van Florenstein has finals on his radar in the Heathcote District league this season.
The Bombers have endured a major exodus of players from their successful era of four grand finals in a row and two premierships between 2015 and 2018.
Highlighting just how much of a new era it is for the Bombers in 2021, the only remaining premiership players at the club are stalwart defender Hoby Bussey, who is captaining the side, experienced ruckman Lee Pollock and forward Ayden Walton, who was set to be a departure last year, but is staying on as an assistant coach.
While the Bombers have lost the likes of Daniel Coates, Joel Donehue, Jack Dye, Liam Guinan, Matthew Hay, Brady Hore, Tyler Jones, Brad Ladson, Matt Ladson, Oliver O'Shea, Matt Pollock, Logan Prout and Jake Vandongen, who all played senior football in 2019, Leitchville-Gunbower will inject plenty of fresh talent into the club.
Among the new faces at the club are brothers Nathan and Matt McLellan from Essendon District club Maribyrnong Park.
Nathan is an attacking centre half-back, while Matt is a tall forward.
Former Werribee-listed VFL player Leigh Sobotnicki from Wandella joins the Bombers' midfield brigade.
The McLellan brothers and Sobotnicki, as well as Will Brereton, Eli Spiers and Austin Windridge join the Bombers on the back of last year's signings of Edward McGregor, Rhys Bradley, Mitchell Candy, Brett Johnson and Van Florestein, who will pinch hit in the ruck as well as play in the backline.
The recruits provide the Bombers with new players in all three areas of the ground - Nathan McClellan, Bradley, McGregor and Van Florestein in defence, Matt McClellan and Windridge in attack; Sobotnicki and Johnson in the midfield; and Candy and Brereton on the wing.
"I feel we're looking in not too bad a position for the year ahead," Van Florestein said.
"We've added some experience into our list to complement some good young kids coming through. We're going into this year aiming to play finals."
The Bombers narrowly missed out on playing finals in 2019, finishing an agonising 0.1 per cent behind fifth-placed White Hills before last year's cancelled 2020 season.
"It was obviously strange not having a season last year, but since we've been back our training sessions pre and post-Christmas have all been good in terms of our numbers," said Van Forenstein, who previously coached Heidelberg West in the Northern league.
"The commitment has been there among all the boys."
One of the youngsters who has impressed Van Florenstein has been Darcy Elliott, who made his senior debut with the Bombers in 2019.
"Darcy has been really good. He's a six-foot-four forward who has had a couple of top-three finishes in our 1km time trials," Van Florenstein said.
"We're just really keen to get back into it. I think what has happened over the past year during the lockdown shows just how valuable sport is to the community."
Round 1 - v White Hills (a)
Round 2 - v North Bendigo (h)
Round 3 - v Heathcote (a)
Round 4 - v Colbinabbin (h)
Round 5 - v Mount Pleasant (a)
Round 6 - v Elmore (h)
Round 7 - v LBU (a)
Round 8 - v Huntly (h)
Round 9 - Bye
Round 10 - v White Hills (h)
Round 11 - v North Bendigo (a)
Round 12 - v Heathcote (h)
Round 13 - v Colbinabbin (a)
Round 14 - v Mount Pleasant (h)
Round 15 - v Elmore (a)
Round 16 - v LBU (h)
Round 17 - v Huntly (a)
Round 18 - Bye
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