After finishing runner-up and third the past two years, Barnawartha were once again expected to seriously challenge for the flag before COVID-19 ruined the season.
Co-coach Peter Cook spoke to The Border Mail this week about his expectations this season.
BRENT GODDE: You must have been disappointed the season didn't go ahead considering the Tigers were once again widely regarded as a genuine flag contender?
PETER COOK: I look at it from a couple of different perspectives. As a coach, we have got an ageing list and quite a few players who are in the twilight of their careers. They were motivated to have one more crack at an elusive flag and were hungry for success. But I'm fully aware that there are a lot of bigger issues at the moment with businesses struggling, people finding it hard to find employment and the mental health associated with what has been a challenging year.
BG: Have you been able to keep the list intact?
PC: We have lost Matt McLinden who has relocated to Darwin which is a blow. But we have been able to add some class in Mitch Exton and Ben Kunkel. Jordan Hansted has also crossed from Glenrowan and will add to our midfield depth. I'm still talking to a few potential recruits and am hopeful of one or two more signings.
BG: How do you see the list?
PC: Obviously after playing off in the grand final we are not too far off the mark. We boast plenty of experience and there is some talented kids emerging through the ranks.
IN OTHER NEWS
BG: After keeping departures to a minimum and adding some serious class, you must feel you won't get a better opportunity to win a flag then this season?
PC: I thought we had the list to win the flag last year but we couldn't get the job done. I think most of our improvement will come from the younger guys on the list. A few of our younger guys were contemplating going into town to play in the O&M thirds this year. But now they have decided to stay and there are a few that are ready made senior players.
BG: Has being able to hold onto your kids been a silver lining of COVID-19?
PC: We want all our kids to play at the highest level possible. But sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish and at the end of the day, I'm employed by Barnawartha to win a flag. So if I can hold onto the kids for one more year, I will.
BG: What approach have you taken in regards to the pre-season?
PC: We haven't approached it any differently to be honest. I try to base the pre-season around enjoyment and numbers. I think it's important to ease players back into training in contrast to going hell for leather from the first session.
BG: Who is the side to beat?
PC: Thurgoona have lost a few but have got some talented kids that will get their chance, so I wouldn't write them off yet. Both Kiewa-Sandy Creek and Tallangatta have picked up some high-profile recruits and will be stronger. Tallangatta will start the season favourites.