When the majority of your senior playing list is under the age of 23, it's hard to put a ceiling or floor on expectations.
For Kangaroo Flat coach James Flaherty, he knows his young side will continue to have inconsistency from week to week, but on the back of a strong pre-season he's adamant the Roos will be a harder side to beat in 2022.
"We expect to be better this year,'' Flaherty said.
"A lot of those young guys have got about 15 games of senior footy under their belt.
"The loss of Nathan McHugh hurts us a bit, but with (former Bendigo Pioneers key position player) Ryan O'Keefe back at the club full-time, and the improvement in some young guys, we think we'll have a different dynamic.
"The expectations at this time of year compared to last year are higher, but we can't just talk about that, it's a matter of us going out and executing the plans we've put in place."
To complement the youth, the Roos have regained siblings Mitch and Liam Collins, while their cousin - Hayden O'Brien - joins the Roos after playing senior footy in the powerful Ovens and Murray Football League.
Crafty small forward/midfielder Mitch Rovers returns to his home club after one season with Sandhurst.
While O'Brien is yet to play a practice match, Flaherty said he liked what he saw from his recruits in the trial games.
"We've been able to run the games out well and having some more experience around the ball with the Collins boys has made a big difference,'' Flaherty said.
"Mitchy Rovers has given us some more run and carry which has made us look a bit different, definitely for the better."
Flaherty, a star defender during his playing career in the VFL, WAFL, BFNL and GVFL, worked hard on the Roos' defensive structures in his first two seasons in charge.
This season there's a greater focus on the Roos' offensive game.
"We're probably more about hitting the scoreboard more often this year,'' Flaherty said.
"Young footballers want to take the game on and be creative out in space. We have players who can use their smarts with the footy and break the lines.
"I know they're only practice matches, but in those games we have been able to take more marks inside forward 50."
Developing ruckman Max Johnson was one of three players to suffer an ankle injury in a practice match and he remains in doubt for the season-opener against Maryborough.
Flaherty said Johnson was an ideal fit alongside veteran big man Nick Lang.
"Max is pretty aggressive and he gives us a different dynamic to when Langy is in there,'' he said.
"Even when Max goes forward we feel as though he's dangerous because he can take a mark inside 50."
The Roos' crop of 19 and 20-year-olds that won the under-18 premiership a couple of years ago, are leading the way in the Roos' rebuild, while Flaherty said there's another wave of talented young players coming through underneath them.
"Darcy Kelly went out to Maldon and has come back to the club and showed some good signs off half-back in the practice matches,'' Flaherty said.
"Pat Murphy and Campbell Smith both played a senior game or two last year. Pat uses the ball well and is pretty courageous, while Campbell gives us plenty of drive off half-back.
"Those three young guys are certainly in the mix for round one."
The Roos host Maryborough in round one before a big Easter Saturday standalone clash with Golden Square at Wade Street.
Coach: Jayden Cowling.
Placing when season ended last year: First.
Arrivals: Lou Dupuy, Maddi Wild.
Last A-grade premiership: 2016.
Summary: Unfinished business will spur perennial powerhouse Kangaroo Flat this season.
The Jayden Cowling-coached Roos were charging towards and exciting and intriguing finals series last year with a league-best 10-0-1 record, before the pin was pulled on the season due to COVID.
A near-perfect season followed an amazing pre-season on the recruiting front, with the Roos bringing in sisters Ashley and Abbey Ryan, from Eaglehawk, Sandhurst triple-premiership player Carly Van Den Heuvel, White Hills dual premiership player Bronte Deary and star defender Laura McDonald.
That such an exciting and deeply-talented squad never got to experience finals together was a source of frustration and disappointment.
As a consequence, we can expect the Roos to be eager, even impatient, to make up for the lost opportunity.
Cowling said players across all squads had returned to pre-season in a positive frame of mind and were keen for success.
"Considering the season we had (in 2021) was so up and down, which made it hard to find momentum, we had a really good year to finish on top," he said.
"But having such a great group, we really wanted to finish off what we started. They were all really starting to find their feet together before finals.
"I think that's the reason why everyone is back this year, to give it another real crack.
"We had so much fun off the court together too and everything has been so nice at training.
"We are trying to make it as much fun as possible while keeping it serious at the same time."
"It's a similar group with a few new faces, but there are really good vibes."
The A-squad has been strengthened by the shock inclusion of former Colbinabbin premiership star and coach Lou Dupuy, who joined the Roos less than a month ago.
With regular goal shooter Annie Spear nursing an ankle injury from a recent practice match, Dupuy will step straight into the line-up for round one.
The Roos have further boosted their depth with the inclusions of former Mount Pleasant and South Bendigo goal shooter and Bendigo Braves basketballer Maddi Wild and rising star Bella Pitto from the 17-and-under team.
Besides last year's recruits, a versatile and supremely talented A-grade team will again feature star centre Chelsea Sartori, wing defence Milly Wicks and experienced defender Ingrid Hopkins.
Sartori is coming off an injury-interrupted 2021 season, but one in which she excelled for her VNL club Boroondara Express by winning the league's division one MVP award.
The trio of Abbey Ryan, Dupuy and Spear (when fit) again gives the Roos one of the league's most effective and potent goaling combinations, fed effectively by quality midcourters Sartori and Ashley Ryan.
Losing grand finalists in the last completed season in 2019, Kangaroo Flat will be aiming for its first premiership since 2016.
While there is no doubting the depth of talent at Dower Park, Cowling knows an elusive flag will be no easy task.
"The season is going to be one of the best seasons Bendigo has seen," he said.
"You have the powerhouses in Sandhurst and Gisborne, which are strong every year, and the fact Castlemaine has brought in these high-level players and coaches, it's just exciting for the league.
"I know our girls are excited to be going up against those players. It will shake up the competition and shake up the top five.
"You can't rule out South Bendigo too, They have some great recruits and have been training really hard. Picking a top five would be pretty hard."
ROUND 1 - April 9
v Maryborough (h)
ROUND 2 - April 16
v Golden Square (a)
ROUND 3 - April 23
v Eaglehawk (h)
ROUND 4 - April 30
v Sandhurst (a)
ROUND 5 - May 7
v Kyneton (h)
ROUND 6 - May 14
v Castlemaine (a)
ROUND 7 - May 28
v Gisborne (h)
ROUND 8 - June 4
v Strathfieldsaye (a)
ROUND 9 - June 11
v South Bendigo (h)
ROUND 10 - June 18
v Maryborough (a)
ROUND 11 - June 25
v Golden Square (h)
ROUND 12 - July 9
v Eaglehawk (a)
ROUND 13 - July 16
v Sandhurst (h)
ROUND 14 - July 23
v Kyneton (a)
ROUND 15 - July 30
v Castlemaine (h)
ROUND 16 - August 6
v Gisborne (a)
ROUND 17 - August 13
v Strathfieldsaye (h)
ROUND 18 - August 20
v South Bendigo (a)
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