Sunbury Lions are looking for improvement.
After finishing fifth last year, the Lions are focused on closing the gap on the top sides in the Ballarat Football League this season.
Lions’ coach Ben Jordan said last year’s result reflected where they were, but a strong pre-season was the start of something better.
“Hopefully we are a better team than last year,” he said.
“The guys know me a fair bit better and we’ve addressed a couple areas of the ground that were a bit weak.
“I’m not expecting anything less than improvement. Finals will be the aim.”
The Lions’ practice match phase started earlier than normal with a match against a group of players trying out for Essendon’s VFL side.
They’ve since played matches against Gisborne and Diggers Rest and Jordan has been encouraged by what he has seen. He said it would be hard to pick a team for round one.
After a less-than-ideal start to the off season for the Lions – losing Adam Short, David Kovacevic, Tom Donoghue, Jesse Flannery and Ben Said – they have regrouped and added some talented younger players to the squad.
Nathan Doyle and Tom Werner are both part of the Calder Cannons program and Liam Berry and Jiaya Mitchell have come across from Rupertswood.
Aaron Christensen has returned to his junior club after a premiership with Macedon.
Jack Fenner is a key position player, and Matthew Wright will add depth to the ruck department.
Jordan said they hoped to see a bit more of Grant Valles, Jack Sullivan and Jack Sheahan on the park this year.
“Grant Valles did a whole pre-season down at North Melbourne [VFL] … he’s impressed in our two practice games. He’s keen to have a big season,” he said.
“Jack Sullivan hasn’t done a lot of work, so I can’t see him playing seniors in the short term. He could give us another option up forward.
“Jack Sheahan has slowly increased his workload and fitness, he’s missed a lot of footy over the last few years.
“He’s a good contested mark and gives us a bit of height.”
Jordan said he expected Valles, Sullivan and Sheahan to play key roles in a new-look forward line.
“The forward line will have to have a different look about it. I think Grant having a full season and with Jack [Sheahan] down there, they could be used as go-to players,” he said.
“We’ll try some different players down that end of the ground. Trent Stead is one who can have a run in the forward line and be a target.
“Hopefully if we can move the ball a bit better this year, it will create a bit of space for the forwards to work in.”
Jordan said he expected Will Healy, Mick Edwards, Jack Hannett and Jayden Eales to continue their development and cement their spots in the side.
The Lions will kick off their season on Saturday against Redan at Clarke Oval.