DREW Barnes knows the bar has been raised.
With Albury re-loading, and a resurgent Lavington restocked and ready to fire, the Pigeons’ co-coach says Yarrawonga has no choice but to improve if it wants to win a hat-trick of premierships for the first time in its history this season.
That could be asking plenty of a team that may just be the best in country Victoria already, but Barnes isn’t in the mood for excuses.
“We’ve definitely got to improve,” he said.
“Looking at the other two from the top-three last year, it’s pretty clear they’ve got better.
“Defensively, we were the No.1 side in the league last year.
“We’ve lost a bit from the backline last year and need to make sure everybody is on board with that style again if we want to cover those losses.”
Complacency is the other concern.
When you win back-to-back premierships in a side boasting names like Ednie, Ottens, Pettifer and Fevola, it’s easy to see how some may get comfortable with that winning feeling.
But the reigning Did Simpson medallist isn’t too worried.
“We’ve tried a few things to stamp that out,” Barnes explained.
“We gave the guys a really good break after last season to give them a bit of a release.
“Guys like Brad O’Connor, Luke Hammond, Ed Bayles and Matt Irvine are a few of them.
“Some have had two, three, even four months to freshen up and not think about footy.”
They wouldn’t want to get too comfortable sitting on the sidelines, though.
While the club’s older hands have had a softer approach to pre-season training, a host of Yarrawonga’s youngsters have been going hell for leather in the summer sun.
Expect names like Damon Symes, Mark Athanitis and Jake Adkins to feature this year.
“We’re certainly keen to bring the youth through,” Barnes said.
“The younger crew have set the tempo at training and I expect all those guys to get their opportunity at some point this year.”
But winning a third premiership, after missing out on three beforehand, is the main aim.
How could it not be?
“We’re certainly keen to square things up at three-all,” the inspirational playing coach said.
“You look at two of those three grand finals we lost and we were really close.
“Realistically, we probably should have done it already.”