By Luke West
AN ELMORE side stacked with new faces will take to the field in the Heathcote District league this year.
Striving for a return to the finals for the first time since 2016, the Bloods will be led by co-coaches, with reigning best and fairest and star ruckman Dylan Gordon joining Dylan Friedberger in the role.
It has certainly been an active off-season of acquisitions to the Bloods, with Friedberger listing 14 recruits for the side that last season finished 7th with a 3-9 record.
Joining the Bloods are: Bailey Sawyer (full-back); Shaun Haffendon (utility); Rhys Holmberg (defender); Kyle Armstrong (midfielder); Mitchell Carlson (midfielder); Sam McHale (midfielder); Joel Haitsma (midfielder); Harrison Grant (forward/mid); Che Taranto (defender); Brayden Perichon (defender); Regan Williams (forward); Tannar Cerrone (forward); Darcy Laffy (forward) and Sebastian De Napoli (forward/mid).
"We've been averaging 30 to 40 on the track during pre-season, which has been fantastic," Friedberger said.
"I think everyone realises with the numbers we've got that they're not just going to be able to expect a game every week without putting the work in.
"In particular we're going to have a lot deeper midfield with the recruits we've brought in and we think we'll be able to run six to eight players through there."
While there is a host of new players to the Bloods, the club has also lost some key talent from last season, including former captain and 2021 leading goalkicker James Harney, Joe Harney and Bailey Boyack, plus ruckman James Atkinson, Farran Priest and Phil Hubbard.
James Harney with his 32 was the only player who kicked more than 15 goals for Elmore last season.
"With the likes of Tannar Cerrone coming in across half-forward, Darcy Laffy at centre half-forward, myself as a small forward, and Sebastian De Napoli we think we'll have more of a natural looking forward line compared to last year when we had a lot of midfielders going through there," Friedberger said.
"This year our midfield will be rotating more through the bench and we'll have more of a full-time forward line, which will, hopefully, eliminate that problem of not being able to hit the scoreboard."
This year our midfield will be rotating more through the bench and we'll have more of a full-time forward line, which will, hopefully, eliminate that problem of not being able to hit the scoreboard- Dylan Friedberger
Elmore will clearly get an early gauge of just how competitive it can be against the league's top echelon of teams given its first four games before the bye are against sides all expected to be fighting it out for the top three - Colbinabbin (twice), Mount Pleasant and North Bendigo.
"We've still kept a good core of last year's list and with what we've recruited, there will obviously be more depth, but it's the internal development of the group that has really got me excited," Friedberger said.
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"There has been a lot more professionalism among the group in terms of getting to training.
"With where the group is at and the way the competition is looking with the other teams, we're aiming to get ourselves up into fifth spot and play finals."
By Kieran Iles
Coaches: Gabe Richards and Allira Holmes.
Placing when season ended last year: First.
Arrivals: Allira Holmes.
First game: v Colbinabbin (April 2).
No netball club in the AFL Central Victoria region - BFNL teams included - had the right to feel as hard done by last season when COVID put an end to finals than Elmore.
The Bloods thoroughly dominated the HDFNL competition in 2021, ending the home and away season undefeated en route to claiming the minor premiership.
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Only one team, Colbinabbin, was able to get within 20 goals of the Bloods during the season, placing them at short odds of going on to claim the premiership.
That finals were cancelled and a chance at drought-breaking premiership went begging is certain to provide the Bloods with plenty of motivation to finish off the job they started last year.
After three seasons of continual and incremental improvement at the helm, Sue Borserio relinquished the coaching reins at Elmore at the end of last season.
The task of building on her great work has been accepted by star goal shooter Gabe Richards and former BFNL inter-league star Allira Holmes.
The pair are no strangers having been BFNL premiership teammates at Golden Square in 2015 and also playing in the Bulldogs' losing grand final side in 2016.
Holmes, who signed with the Bloods last season, but only took on a coaching role, will be the major addition to an A-grade line-up, which has remained intact.
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She last played in 2019, while coaching Eaglehawk.
"I'm keen to pull the boots back on after a few seasons off," she said.
"I was out pregnant last year and the year before was obviously that really bad COVID year, which was my last year in the BFNL, but we didn't even take to the court.
"That was a bit disappointing, but I'm keen to get back out there."
The Bloods ooze talent and class across the court with rising star Abbey Hromenko joining Richards in the goal circle and another talented youngster Cayde Hayes occupying the midcourt alongside Andrea Wilson and Steph Donnellon, while Tahnee Cannan is back for another year in defence.
The goaling combination of Richards and Hromenko again shapes as the league's most dominant.
Elmore's new coaches are particularly thrilled to be working with the club's young guns.
"Cayde (Hayes) is still at school and that will be a challenge for us this year in how we support her because she is away at boarding school and misses a fair few trainings," she said.
"But she plays netball down at school and obviously trains during the week.
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"But she's eager to learn and is like a little sponge. Whatever you send her way you can be guaranteed she'll go ahead and do it."
Like all coaches and players, Holmes, who led Golden Square to a grand final as coach in 2017, is just hoping for an uninterrupted season after a stop-start campaign in 2021.
"It was unfortunate that they couldn't finish off the season because of COVID, it would have been nice to have done that," she said.
"But we still have a strong side and one capable of giving it a good crack.
"I just hope it's a really competitive season and clubs have been able to fill all teams. It's getting harder and harder, but we want a good strong competition."
I just hope it's a really competitive season and clubs have been able to fill all teams. It's getting harder and harder, but we want a good strong competition- Allira Holmes
The Bloods' season opener against the Grasshoppers under lights at Colbinabbin will pit them against the team that came closest to inflicting a defeat on them last season, albeit the margin was still 18 goals.
SEASON OPENER - April 2
v Colbinabbin (a) (N)
ROUND 1 - April 9
v Mount Pleasant (h)
ROUND 2 - April 16
v North Bendigo (a)
ROUND 3 - April 23
v Colbinabbin (h)
ROUND 4 - April 30
ROUND 5 - May 7
v White Hills (a)
ROUND 6 - May 14
v Heathcote (h)
ROUND 7 - May 21
v Leitchville-Gunbower (a)
ROUND 8 - May 28
v Huntly (h)
ROUND 9 - June 4
v LBU (a)
ROUND 10 - June 11
v Mount Pleasant (a)
ROUND 11 - June 18
v North Bendigo (h)
ROUND 12 - June 25
ROUND 13 - July 2
ROUND 14 - July 9
v White Hills (h)
ROUND 15 - July 16
v Heathcote (a)
ROUND 16 - July 23
v Leitchville-Gunbower (h)
ROUND 17 - July 30
v Huntly (a)
ROUND 18 - August 6
v LBU (h)
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