HILLSIDE coach Steve Burns is the first to admit his playing list took a significant hit this summer.
The Sharks have entered recent Division 1 seasons as flag contenders but have never made it to the big dance.
With mixed form and injuries cruelling their 2018 campaign, the Sharks bowed out of last year’s finals series in Week 1.
That was followed by a handful of key departures, which included 2018 Team of the Year members Mitch Church and Tom Drake.
While Hillside’s list of new recruits is fruitful, Burns told essendondfl.com.au that he wouldn’t be too surprised of his team didn’t quite get to the levels it did in 2017-18.
“It is a reset,” he admitted.
“We’ve taken a step backwards to go forwards.
“After the (semi) final I said we had to change our list a little bit and we’ve done that, but it’s probably changed a little bit more than what I would have liked.
“But I still believe we’ve got enough talent spread across our list to be competitive with everybody.”
Each of Hillside’s new recruits will help fill the void left behind by those departing.
The ruck stocks have been bolstered by the arrivals of both Bevan Newell and Luke Hampshire and down back, Patrick Taban will be one to watch.
Andrew Papazoglou will slot into the forward line after a stint with Aberfeldie, while Jake Camilleri, Rhys Bradley and Stephen Syme will each inject some more quality youth into the line-up.
With a bit of luck on the injury front, Burns is hoping to catch some rival sides off-guard with his new-look line-up.
“I don’t think we’re going to be that contender that we were last year, but we won’t be that far off it, either,” he said.
“We’ve lost some talent, there’s no hiding that, especially with Church, Tom Drake and Julian Hemala, but I still think we’ve got enough (new players) coming in.
“If we get a good run with injury, which we haven’t had for three years, then anything could happen.”
The higher than average turnover rate of the list this summer has also had a positive cultural impact on the group, according to Burns.
The EDFL coaching stalwart believes this has been the best pre-season he’s been a part of in quite some time.
On-field leaders Victor Micallef, Jackson Volpato, Riza Gashi and Raaf Rachrache have all been the driving force behind Hillside’s renewed optimism heading into the new season.
“Our culture wasn’t great and we’ve turned a corner on that,” Burns said.
“We’ve made the changes we needed to make and it’s just such a different place now.
“Everything’s different. The work rate, the attitude, the wanting to be at training and the wanting to do the work.”
In: Luke Hampshire (ruck, Tullamarine), Bevan Newell (ruck/key position, Pascoe Vale), Brayden Feltham (midfielder, Romsey), Stefan Dipietro (defender, PEGS), Andrew Papazoglou (forward, Aberfeldie), Patrick Taban (key defender, Nightcliff), Jake Camilleri (defender, Keilor), Rhys Bradley (defender, East Keilor) & Stephen Syme (midfielder, Spotswood)
Out: Rusiate Komaitai (Strathmore), Joel Bonnici (Tullamarine), Anthony Aloi (Airport West), Mitch Church (Westmeadows), Julian Hemala (Pascoe Vale), Tom Drake (Strathmore) & Joseph Drake (Strathmore)