The arrival of four new recruits at Thurgoona has got Dan Cleary excited following his appointment as senior coach for next season.
Harry Tooney has rejoined the Bulldogs from North Albury while Ben Hunt, who kicked 29 goals for Rand-Walbundrie-Walla this year, is another former junior returning to the kennel.
Thurgoona has also landed Lockhart duo Wylie Harrington and Jack Muldoon, with further signings in the pipeline.
"I'm really excited," Cleary said.
"They're all key position guys, big bodies and guys who have had good experience elsewhere, away from the footy club and can bring a different aspect in terms of leadership and what we're trying to achieve.
"They've already been around the footy club a little bit and I know the group's really excited to have them all on board.
"There is the potential to recruit a couple more in the next few weeks; we've got a few key conversations happening at the minute."
Cleary co-coached with Kade Brown in 2021 and while Brown won't have the title next season, he will play for the Bulldogs again and remains one of Cleary's closest allies.
"My role won't change a lot," Brown explained. "I'll be able to help Dan a little bit more.
"He'll be able to tell me exactly what he wants and I'll do a lot more one-on-one coaching. If a midfielder needs some work, I'll take them aside during training and work with them instead of the whole group going through the motions.
"Dan's super. He's been part of the club for over 10 years now, he's coached almost every grade and he knows the Tallangatta league really well.
"This is a good opportunity for him to take the group forward. It's a pretty young group and he works well with young players."
Cleary has already thrown down the gauntlet to a section of his playing group.
"The club's had success in recent years but there's some guys who have been really lucky in that regard," he said.
"They're 23 and under, have been part of that success from a really young age and they've just been able to fly along and cruise through in that respect.
"They've always had really good leaders in front of them and been able to jump on the back of that.
"Yes, they've performed on the field but in terms of the leadership side of things, they've never had to step up to that.
"What we've been trying to promote in the last couple of years is that those younger guys now need to take ownership of the footy club and want to move it forward in the right direction.
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"We're trying to empower them a little bit more to make sure they're willing and able to step up into those sorts of roles."
Following a tough transition from the 2019 premiership to finishing eighth this year, it's a more settled Thurgoona which will emerge in 2022.
It's been a learning curve for the coach as much as anyone.
"I learned that I've got to let go of the things I can't control," Cleary said.
"I was trying to control too many things early days, so to relinquish that control and start giving it to other people was good for me.
"Last year probably didn't go how I had imagined or planned but it was a good building block, not only for me but our group, to see how we needed to improve to be able to compete with those better sides.
"We finished off the year winning our last few and got a little bit of momentum so I'm really excited moving into 2022 and what it looks like for us. We're definitely in a better position than we were this time last year.
"The competition is improving all the time though.
"Chiltern will be difficult to beat and there's been plenty of good coaching appointments but all we can do is aim to improve on what we produced last year."
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