INGLEWOOD coach Darrell Billett simply wants to see steps forward for the Blues this year - no matter how small they may be in the Loddon Valley league.
Billett knows there are no quick fixes for the Blues, who have claimed eight of the past nine wooden spoons and won just 11 of 144 games through that period since 2011.
Which is why Billett's approach is all about trying to obtain gradual improvement for his side, which he took over in November, 2019, but hasn't had the chance to coach yet due to last year's cancelled season.
Given the constant struggles the Blues have endured, recruiting hasn't been easy for Billett on the back of Inglewood losing a host of players from 2019, including former coach Ryan McNish and reigning best and fairest Lachlan Sidebottom.
The Blues have had Lochlan Else and Tom Lake commit for 2021, while Billett remains hopeful his "irons in the fire" will pay dividends before the season kicks off.
"We're really hopeful of being able to still secure some quality players... we've got plenty of irons in the fire," Billett said.
"Coming from where we are, it has been difficult to get players to commit and the COVID break hasn't done us any favours with not getting the chance to play last year.
"There's a lot of negativity from outside the club, but inside the club we're really hopeful that we can be ultra competitive, which then makes it easier next year to try and get some high quality players on board.
"As a club, we've got a terrific group of local young kids. Jasper McClelland is out of the under-18s from 2019 and trained really well 12 months ago, but has taken it to another level with his fitness, cleanness with the footy and his hands.
"Taj Rodwell is another young player who is one to really keep an eye on, so there's some good players coming through."
Having gone through the 2019 season winless, the only way is up for the Blues, who last played senior finals in 2003.
"Coming from where we are, if we could pinch a couple of wins, to me that would be a successful season because we will have started to turn around where we've been to where we want to get to," Billett said.
"We're under no illusion that it's going to be tough and you can't just flick a switch and go straight into a grand final, but for us, it's about seeing some steps forward this year."
Round 1 - v Pyramid Hill (a)
Round 2 - v Mitiamo (h)
Round 3 - v Bridgewater (a)
Round 4 - v BL-Serpentine (a)
Round 5 - Bye
Round 6 - v Newbridge (h)
Round 7 - v Calivil United (a)
Round 8 - v Marong (h)
Round 9 - v Maiden Gully YCW (a)
Round 10 - v Pyramid Hill (h)
Round 11 - v Mitiamo (a)
Round 12 - v Bridgewater (h)
Round 13 - v BL-Serpentine (h)
Round 14 - Bye
Round 15 - v Newbridge (a)
Round 16 - v Calivil United (h)
Round 17 - v Marong (a)
Round 18 - v Maiden Gully YCW (h)
MEANWHILE, the return of local football-netball competitions this year will start with crowds being capped at 1000.
AFL Victoria has released an updated return to training and games protocols, which states a "patron cap of 1000" with group limits of 100 people at the venue.
However, where it's expected that crowd sizes will be over the 1000 patron cap, leagues will be able to apply for an increased figure through the Victorian Government's Public Events Framework.
The protocols continue to have strict conditions on the public entering changerooms:
* Limit access to changerooms only for players and essential staff only as required (ie coach, team manager, trainers - no parents or spectators) with relevant density quotients met.
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