Rick Andrews was not one to sugar coat anything when he was one of the premier midfielders in the BFNL.
Nothing has changed now that he's the senior coach of the Maryborough Magpies.
The Pies are not the on-field force they were at times during Andrews' stellar playing career and he knows there's not a quick fix for the club to return to the top of the BFNL.
"We're searching for consistency and competitiveness,'' Andrews said.
"We'll be looking for growth and development of the younger guys coming through.
"There's no doubt this will be another year of stepping stones and development for us. We just don't have the depth to make big statements.
"We have good kids coming through...Liam Latch and Aidan Hare are going to be good players, we just need to make sure we have a viable club for them going forward."
The return of Maryborough junior Jacob Lohmann headlined a prosperous first recruiting campaign for Andrews.
Lohmann, a midfielder/forward, played with the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in the NAB League and North Melbourne in the VFL.
He's on Sandringham's VFL list for 2022, but will play for the Pies when not required by the Zebras.
"Jacob is a bit of everything, he's exactly how you'd describe a utility,'' Andrews said.
"He played in Sandringham's first game and played as a hit-up forward. He can certainly play through the midfield and he is a good defender as well.
"We'll use him wherever we need him most."
Key position player Dylan Harberger, ruckman/key forward Patrick Chard, midfielder/half-back Liam Mackie, outside midfielder Sam Mackie and inside midfielder Patrick Vanderpol are the other new additions to the Magpie senior squad.
"We boosted our mids a little bit, but our main focus centered around getting some more talls in,'' Andrews said.
"We're happy with our senior list. There's a good feeling around the group."
The positive feeling around the club has a lot to do with the return of the club's under-18 team.
The Magpies have spent the past six years trying to rebuild their under-18 program and the hard work has paid off.
"One of the success stories of the pre-season is the under-18s,'' Andrews said.
"We had a practice match last weekend and we fielded an under-18 team easily.
"I'm not sure how they'll go (against the established under-18 teams), but to have an under-18 side for the first time in six years is a credit to the club. The under-18s train with the senior group and the energy the young crew generate certainly gives the seniors a boost."
Senior skipper Coby Perry has had an awful run of luck in terms of injuries over the past few years.
When fit, Perry and reigning best and fairest winner Bailey Edwards form as potent one-two midfield punch as any combination in the competition.
"Coby has still had some calf problems and hasn't played a practice match,'' Andrews said.
"Our focus with Coby has been around round one and it looks like he'll be ready for round one."
Maryborough opens its season with a trip to Dower Park to play Kangaroo Flat before hosting Castlemaine on Good Friday in round two.
The opening two rounds provide Andrews and the Magpies with golden opportunities to get some points on the board.
"It's a bit hard to know what to expect this year,'' Andrews said.
"I'm sure footy has changed quite a bit in the league since I last played. I'm looking forward to getting back into it."
Coach: Alicia Cassidy.
Placing when season ended last year: Ninth.
Arrivals: Eliza Roughead, Tori Chandler, Amanda Cox, Zoe Bucknell.
Departures: Ella Tranter, Shelby Steel.
Last A-grade premiership: Never won an A-grade flag.
Summary: Maryborough is hoping to mark the club's 150th anniversary with some success on the netball court.
The Magpies, across the last few seasons, have generally fielded formidable line-ups, but have found big numbers of wins hard to come by, despite often rating a mention from opposing teams as one of the tougher clubs to play.
With a few fresh faces on board, one of their stars returning after playing only a few games last season and only a small number of departures, there is optimism the Magpies can markedly improve on last season's ninth-place finish.
Maryborough will again be coached by club legend Alicia Cassidy, who is into her second season as the Magpies non-playing coach.
The BFNL's netball games record holder made a solid transition into coaching last season, but would like to see the Magpies field a far more settled line-up this season after injuries and unavailability impacted last year's campaign.
In a major boost, the Magpies have regained their star and multiple best and fairest winner Jordan Macilwain, who missed much of last season while pregnant.
Macilwain will partner Keely Hare, a dual best and fairest in her own right, in the goal circle, giving the Magpies plenty of potency in attack.
At the other end of the court, athletic defender Eliza Roughead is back with Maryborough after a stint away and will travel each week from Ballarat.
Into the midcourt comes Tori Chandler, a member of the club's 17-and-under grand final team in 2017, who has been studying on the Gold Coast for the last few years, but has settled back in Melbourne and will also travel back to play.
Chandler will be a solid replacement for last season's skipper and centre Ella Tranter, who will line up with Maryborough Castlemaine District league club Natte Bealiba in 2022.
"She's very keen to get back into sport, so we are very keen to have her back," Cassidy said.
"I guess we lose one midcourter, but gain another.
"Hopefully, Tori will stand up to it; there's no reason why she won't."
Following a standout first season at Maryborough, last year's best and fairest Chrissy James has also recommitted for another season, along with defensive midcourter and former BFNL 17-and-under league best and fairest Maggie Tranter.
A likely option in defence is newcomer Amanda Cox, who is returning to netball after a few seasons away from the game, and last played at Carisbrook, while Zoe Bucknell is also back at the club after a few seasons away.
While finals are always the aim, Cassidy pinpointed improvement against the competition's middle-rung of teams, likely to include Kyneton, Strathfieldsaye and Eaglehawk and Golden Square, as a specific goal.
"We have had a tendency over the years to beat some teams once, but not the second time," she said.
"Maybe having a more consistent season and, hopefully, playing everyone twice, unlike the last two years, might help us to become more consistent."
Pleasingly, the Magpies have been able to add plenty of names to their lower grade sides, but are still unlikely to field an A-reserve team in 2022.
The draw could not have been any unkinder to Maryborough, with three games against teams with definite top-three claims - Kangaroo Flat, Castlemaine and Gisborne - in the first four weeks of the season.
The Magpies' early season draw also includes an away game against Golden Square in round three.
ROUND 1 - April 9
v Kangaroo Flat (a)
ROUND 2 - April 15
v Castlemaine (h)
ROUND 3 - April 23
Golden Square (a)
ROUND 4 - April 30
v Gisborne (h)
ROUND 5 - May 7
v Eaglehawk (h)
ROUND 6 - May 14
v Strathfieldsaye (a)
ROUND 7 - May 28
v Sandhurst (h)
ROUND 8 - June 4
v South Bendigo (a)
ROUND 9 - June 11
v Kyneton (h)
ROUND 10 - June 18
v Kangaroo Flat (h)
ROUND 11 - June 25
v Castlemaine (a)
ROUND 12 - July 9
v Golden Square (h)
ROUND 13 - July 16
v Gisborne (a)
ROUND 14 - July 23
v Eaglehawk (a)
ROUND 15 - July 30
v Strathfieldsaye (h)
ROUND 16 - August 6
v Sandhurst (a)
ROUND 17 - August 13
v South Bendigo (h)
ROUND 18 - August 20
v Kyneton (a)
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