By JESS WEBSTER/NEAFL
Last year was all about the firsts for Canberra.
The first time the club had won two games in a row – extending it to eight with a blistering mid-season run of form – the first time they made finals, and the first time they had won a final.
In 2018 they were the NEAFL underdogs, but coach Kade Klemke believes they can become a regular on the finals stage.
Klemke says there is still plenty of improvement to come from the young members of his squad with another pre-season under their belts.
“You won’t know until you get to the games but I think I’m pretty excited with what the group has done this pre-season,” he told NEAFL TV.
“We’ve been working hard on our defence, especially around the ball, and I’m really impressed with some of our young guys coming through.”
Canberra has seen a raft of list changes since its Preliminary Final exit last year, but the core group remains strong.
The likes of NEAFL Rising Star winner and best-and-fairest Mitch Maguire, Lucas Meline, Jarrod Osborne, Tom Highmore, Harry Carr and new recruit Kel Evans are among those who have impressed Klemke during pre-season training so far.
He says the potential for growth amongst the squad is still high.
“I’m just hoping that those young guys will step up another level after having a full pre-season. For a lot of those guys, last year was their first full season of senior football,” he said.
“Plus, we’re really happy with the recruits we’ve got on board. We think they are already adding a lot of value to the team.
“I’ve been really impressed with a lot of our young guys…. with another year under their belt I think they are going to go to another level.”
Canberra will change up its practice match schedule this year – taking on Sydney and GIANTS in March to prepare for a Round 1 date against Gold Coast at home.
Klemke says the pre-season test against AFL-listed players is just what the side needs if they are to march towards another finals appearance.
“I think when you play against those (AFL) sides they show your weaknesses and we really want to fix those before we get to Round 1, and come in not trying to fix our issues in the third of fourth round,” he said.
“We know we can challenge the best sides now and that’s something we went in to pre-season (focusing on) was really trying to fix any of our weaknesses we have and continue to improve on our strengths as well.
“I think the boys are excited and looking forward to getting in to games.”
Story originally published at www.neafl.com.au