THE bar is now higher than ever for East Sunbury.
The Thunder got within a kick of Strathmore Community Bank Division 2 premiership glory last year and will enter Season 2019 as one of the division’s favourites.
Coach Glenn Hopkins is conscious of the fact that this is new territory for his young side and has spent time working on the mental fortitude of the playing group heading into the new season.
“The level is now higher for the players and we want to make sure they understand that,” Hopkins told essendondfl.com.au.
“I think we’ve got them to understand that they’ve reached the next level - so we have to be consistent and be able to keep to that standard and that level that they, the players, have produced.
“It’s going to be important for us to keep our form, our training and our consistency up to the levels that we need to.”
The Thunder’s playing stocks have taken a slight hit, with four of the grand final 22 moving on.
Bryce Whelan will inject some handy pace through midfield and Tom Godsell will serve as Jorden Braddy’s replacement in the ruck, but the club has seen numerous second-tier youngsters leave over the summer, jeopardising its Under 19s program.
That will have an effect on the club’s senior depth.
“We’ve got to rely a hell of a lot more on the depth of our reserves, so we’ve got to improve the way the reserves guys see their football,” Hopkins said.
“It’s tricky because we have lost a lot of that depth, so that’s something we have to work through.
“But our best 22 is as good as anyone’s in the competition, I would have thought.”
East Sunbury was dealt a bad hand in last year’s grand final.
The wet and windy conditions played into Roxburgh Park’s hands and did not allow the usually potent Thunder to run and carry and apply enough scoreboard pressure.
While the game plan won’t change, Hopkins has put extra emphasis on East Sunbury’s inside game over the summer.
“We were out-muscled in the grand final,” he admitted.
“There are ways we can teach these kids to be able to work harder on the outside and be more competitive on the inside, but our strength is our speed and our ball movement.
“So we’ll continue to work on that style of play and I think a lot of teams in this competition are going to be working on the exact same thing.
“Most of the grounds we play on are a decent size so we want to keep that speed in our game.
“It makes the game more enjoyable to play and to watch and we’re looking to keep that open, speedy type of game.”
In: Nathan Coy* (midfielder, University Hawks), Tom Godsell* (ruck, Hepburn) Justin Gilbertson (defender, Huntly) & Bryce Whelan (midfielder, East Keilor)
Out: Jorden Braddy (Aberfeldie), Brad Bernacki (Gisborne), Corey Mobilio (Sunbury Lions), Connor Lever (Sunbury Lions) & James Cree (Sunbury Lions)