Tough start, but Bulldogs finally get their game together

Gisborne football club is looking at 2016 as the start of a new beginning.

After a disappointing 2015 in the Bendigo Football League, the Bulldogs had an off‐season to forget.

Gisborne reappointed Rod Sharp as coach, only for him to stand down only weeks later.

He wasn’t the only one to leave either, with several senior players signing to play elsewhere and leaving the side a shell of its former team.

And just when the club thought it had solved its coaching riddle with the appointment of former Richmond boss Jeff Gieschen, Gieschen decided he couldn’t take the role.

Former reserves and under‐18 coach Brad Spear was finally appointed just before Christmas and it has been up and up for the club since then.

Spear said having coached many of the squad before would be a big benefit to both him and the players.

“We had a lot of players leave at season’s end and a few issues appointing a coach and I ended up getting the role,” Spear said last week.

“We’ve had 12 senior players leave, a fair void to fill.

“We’ve had 34 players on the track consistently and the majority of them have been around the 18, 19, 20 mark, so we’re very young.”

But after losing a lot of players early on, Spear said it was a good sign that no more players had departed since Christmas.

Among those to leave are Tim and Scott Walsh who have gone to Riddell, Josh and Hamish Govan, now at Kyneton, with Casey Summerfield, Tom Waters, Matt Knox and Pat Fitzgerald going to Macedon.

Ollie Messaudi has retired.

“I look at things half full and we’re starting fresh with a new generation,” Spear said,

“No doubt it will take a couple of seasons to get games into the kids but once we surround them with some good players we’ll be a good side.”

While the club hasn’t gone out and recruited players to help fill the void left by the departures, they have welcomed back some club legends on and off the field.

Former coach and star forward Luke Saunders will come out of retirement, while former captain Anthony Belecher  will again play in the senior team after playing mostly reserves last year.

Justin Farrugia and Martin Lakey will help Spear in the coaches’ box.

“We’re fortunate to have the experience of Luke and Anthony on the field,” Spear said.

“Martin and Justin are legends of the club and will help me with the kids.

“To get past players back is very positive.”

Spear said he had received phone calls from former reserves players also looking to return to the club.

He said this year wouldn’t necessarily be about results, but preparing for the future.

“The seniors and reserves will be fairly young and it bodes well for the future,” he said.

“It’s really a season of developing the kids and fast‐tracking them.

“We want them to compete and develop as players for the future.”