Gisborne’s intentions are clear.
The Bulldogs, one of the biggest improvers in the Bendigo Football League this year, have spent the off season adding some quality recruits.
And while Bulldogs coach Clinton Young said they were super proud of this year, when they returned to the top five and finals, they weren’t content with that performance.
“We feel as a team we’ve made great inroads. We want to have a really good pre-season and want to be regarded as one of the teams up the top of the ladder challenging,” he said.
“We have got games into young players …we made finals and we were keen to add some more depth.”
The Bulldogs haven’t had to look far to add some quality recruits, with most of the new players familiar to the club or at least the Gisborne community.
Former Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne listed player Pat McKenna returns home to his junior club in a full-time capacity.
Jim Ferry, another Gisborne junior, returns after playing with Essendon’s VFL side.
Young said both McKenna and Ferry would be assistant coaches.
The Bulldogs have also welcomed back Casey Summerfield and Tim and Scott Walsh.
The three left the Bulldogs for the Riddell District Football League at the end of the 2015 season.
Young said they would add a lot of leadership.
“They are keen to come back and continue the momentum of last year,” he said.
“We’re in a strong position and we have these guys returning who are highly determined players.
“These guys have played finals footy at the club. It’s more experience back in the group and they can impart their knowledge on the group.”
The Bulldogs young midfield has also received another boost with Brad Bernacki joining the club.
Bernacki, who captained the Calder Cannons and won their best and fairest in 2017, comes across from East Sunbury and Coburg VFL.
Young said Bernacki would play full-time at the Bulldogs, having decided not to continue playing VFL.
“He lives in Gisborne so we are thrilled to get him signed on.
“I’ve heard he is a tough on-baller and I’m really happy to have him play for us.”
Dylan Clayton, who is part of the Simon Black Academy where Young works, rounds out the signings.
Young said they were unlikely to add anyone else, with the club keen to continue to bring through the younger players.
“It’s a huge bonus that the 18s team won the premiership this year and we have a lot of young guys coming up as well.
“The senior depth is going to be much better next year. Hopefully that will flow onto the reserves as well … This year we were calling around to find reserves players.”
As well as adding a number of new players, the Bulldogs have pretty much re-signed their whole list. Those not returning are Ross Celano, who can’t commit because he’s moving, and Riley Patterson, who has moved to Riddell.