After winning five of their last seven matches in 2019, Beechworth look to be on an upward spiral.
Shaun Baxter replaces co-coaches Brenton Surrey and Jay Dale at the helm with Baxter having been drafted by Footscray in 1994 and also spent time on Geelong's list.
Although he didn't play at the elite level, Baxter is one of the best credentialled coaches in the competition after having recently completed The Next Coach Program which is the AFL's highest level coaching program.
Baxter caught-up with The Border Mailand has been impressed by how the Bushrangers' pre-season is progressing.
BRENT GODDE: How have you approached the pre-season so far?
SHAUN BAXTER: My focus has been getting to know the players and working on the game plan. We haven't done a lot fitness-wise purposelessly because I didn't want players suffering from soft tissue injuries after a year off.
BG: You trained for eight weeks before the Christmas break?
SB: We got through without one soft tissue injury, so I was rapt with that.
BG: You have been attracting good numbers to training with the Bushrangers' depth a concern in recent seasons?
SB: We had 53 different players train over the eight week block. I think the lowest we had at a session was 25 players.
BG: You have recently relocated to Beechworth from Corowa?
SB: We moved to Beechworth in the first week of November and the family and I couldn't be happier. The kids have settled in and my wife has found work so it's been a really good move.
BG: Brenton Surrey and Jay Dale have committed to playing this season?
SB: They are both great leaders of the club so it's a huge bonus to have them commit for another season. Both have had some input at training and they are a great asset to have around the club.
BG: Now that you have had a chance to meet the players, what is your first impression of the list?
SB: I have a different philosophy to most coaches in the bush in that I feel one of the biggest issues in community football is that clubs recruit players from out of town on big money. I feel there does need to be a different approach.
BG: You are a team-orientated coach?
SB: One of my biggest messages to the group over the pre-season is learning to know what your teammate is going to do with the ball before he even does it. So in that regard we haven't gone out and recruited and have basically got a similar list to what we would have had last year.
BG: Does that mean you won't recruit?
SB: I will have a look at the list over the season and see how the guys gel and play together as a team. Then at the end of the year we will assess where the group is at and if we need to learn more we will focus on the learning rather than recruiting from out of town. Junior development will be a focus.
IN OTHER NEWS
BG: You are new to the league but do you feel finals is a realistic goal?
SB: I'm confident if the players gel and follow the game plan, we will be playing finals.
BG: You have also been coaching the juniors over the pre-season?
SB: I feel it's beneficial if the kids also learn the game plan from a young age and one of my major focuses is junior development. I have been training the kids once a week and have been getting around 15 to most sessions.
BG: Do you feel there is a side to beat?
SB: I probably don't know enough about the league to make an informed decision. I know Brett Doswell reasonably well and obviously Thurgoona have won three of the past four flags. But it sounds like they have lost a few of their premiership stars. But I look forward to meeting the other coaches and developing a healthy rivalry with them.