Great Western have sounded an ominous warning to their Mininera and District Football Netball League rivals for the 2021 season as they prepare to defend their premiership.
In 2019, Great Western ended a 36-year premiership drought when they defeated by Penshurst by seven points in a thrilling grand final.
Coming into this long-awaited 2021 season, Great Western senior coach William Bell said the Lions were fit, firing and ready to defend their crown.
"I think we have a better squad than we did in 2019, we have maintained most of our squad and recruited really well and we still have options up our sleeve," he said.
"I know everyone is really excited for community sport to come back and catch-up with their mates.
"For us we just want to be continually improving and play good football and if we can make finals then we have ticked the boxes, and if you're in the finals you're a chance to make the finals and win it all.
"If we are able to go back-to-back that would be amazing and I don't think this club, in its history have done that before so that would be huge."
Bell, who grew up in Ballarat, is about to embark on his fourth season as the senior coach after joining the club when they were the worst team in the competition.
Bell brought a wealth of experience from his time as an assistant coach with the Ballarat Rebels and as a coach with the Vic Country squad to Great Western, which allowed the squad to greatly improve in the last few seasons.
"I learnt so much, the professionalism, learning about athletes and how to get kids drafted and I was able to work with good coaches and good mentors which helped me get to here today," he said.
"We have recruited a lot of people, but we have also been able to develop our own people locally and that has helped us get there a lot quicker.
"We had to change the mindset of a lot of guys, they were used to playing defensive footy and getting beaten by in excess of 200 points some weeks so they had become really defensively-minded.
"So we had to change the mindset and make it a positive environment and then we had to teach our players how to defend properly and then add that next layer to their game which was about attacking and going forward to score.
"It's funny because a lot of the guys who played in those big loses were part of the premiership winning team.
Despite their premiership winning season in 2019, Bell is still looking to find improvement for the 2021 season.
"We are probably still playing a really defensive game style, we like to defend first and attack second, and if we can add another layer to our game and be more attacking on offense that would be great.
"We relied on a lot on three indigenous guys to kick a lot of goals for us last season, so we could just get the ball in there and they could just weave their magic and kick goals from anywhere.
"But this year we will won't be able to rely on them, so we want to have a bit more structure to our forward line and we want to be able to move the ball in their with purpose and I feel like that will be able to make us better."
GATHERING THE PACK
Great Western resident and club legend Tracey McCartney is also returning to the club for her third year as president.
McCartney said the club was in a good place going into 2021 and she encouraged everyone to come down and be involved.
"It's great, I love it. It is a difficult job and you make difficult decisions but it is something I really enjoy," she said.
"The hardest part is right now is, I've found everyone sat on their hands and did nothing during COVID and now we are trying to get people acting and get things ready for football and its hard to get people out of that little COVID bubble that they are in and me included.
"So training has all started and people are slowly starting to come back.
"The seniors have once again recruited excellently.
It's great, I love it. It is a difficult job and you make difficult decisions but it is something I really enjoyTracey McCartney
"We were looking to defend the flag and we were all hoping for a strong year and we were also hoping the reserves would be able to grab the flag they missed out on in 2019, so we were pretty excited about last year.
"Once you get the momentum you can really build, but now we have had the break, we have lost some of that momentum, we have lost some players and the ones we have recruited we have kept most of them we should hopefully be okay."
While it was ecstasy for Great Western senior players on grand final day in 2019, it was agony for reserves players who fell just short of clinching a premiership double.
While the pain of that day still remains, new reserves coach Nicholas McCartney said he was looking forward to stepping into the role and guiding the team towards redemption.
"We will be better prepared that's for sure," he said.
"For a lot of the guys it hit pretty hard and for a lot of the year we thought we had the team to win it and we will build on it, learn from the mistakes we made that day and improve for this season.
"Seeing both teams compete again will be good and I think both teams have their sights set on finals and that is what I am most looking forward to.
"For a lot of the guys it hit pretty hard and for a lot of the year we thought we had the team to win it"Nicholas McCartney
McCartney said he the Great Western reserves is often a way for their juniors players to build towards senior football and he wants to help the club's next generation on that journey.
"Coaching is always something I have been involved in, I did the juniors and then I thought I'd start with coaching the reserves and see what I can get into," he said.
"There is a lot of young kids that come through the reserves so it is important for their development and helping them build towards seniors and it is just good to be able to make a difference to all of them."
McCartney said the year away from football was tough for the town, but the club was in a strong place for the 2021 season.
"It was tough and it was probably tough for a lot of the supporters as well," he said.
"Me, as a coach and as a player, I struggled that's for sure, I missed the comradery of the boys and all the laughs and all that.
But it seems like we have bounced back really well, the numbers are up and there is a lot of interest and the club is still as strong as it was in 2019 in my eyes so we will be right.
CALLING YOUNG CUBS
Great Western are also building a strong junior program with senior player Mitchell Laundy stepping up to the role of under 16.5 coach to guide the next generation of cubs
"I helped out with the Auskick in 2019 and then jumped at the offer to coach this group," he said.
"It is something that has always interested me, working with kids is always good too.
"It is good to see them make progress and we can see that with our group already and watching them grow as people and footballers is what it is all about.
"We have a good group of young kids, we would love some more. We have about 16 at the moment.
So any kids who are interested jump in.
"We will take kids of all ages and any variety, so come down and it's a great place to jump in and play some footy.
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