The pain of losing a preliminary final in golden point will drive the Northern Jets into next year, with new coach Mitch Robinson hoping to harness the bitter taste that still remains.
In something of a surprise, Robinson takes over from co-coaches Darren Jackson and Sam Fisher who took the Jets to within millimetres of a grand final appearance.
With work commitments preventing Fisher continuing in the role, the Jets turned to the 27-year old defender.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity, very excited about it,” Robinson said.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and when I got approached about it I pretty well instantly said yes.
“Just on last year, to go as close as we did, the hunger’s there... I think the fire’s in the belly for a lot of the blokes. Sitting around when we got knocked out, it was that ‘we were that close, we should’ve been there’ feeling.”
Robinson knows it’s a challenge to turn a top three finish into a grand final appearance but that’s the expectation.
“Of course, that’s what you coach for,” Robinson said. “You obviously take that week by week but if we can improve a little bit on last year...”
That’s the challenging part with the Jets facing plenty of departures. Canberra-based trio Justin Mesman, Mark Kimball and Tim Gray have decided not to travel again next year while ruckman/forward Josh Plozza has returned to Melbourne.
The Jets haven’t given up on young gun Mitch Maguire who will be at university in Canberra. Either way, the nation’s capital could be the source for signings given Jack Fisher and Declan O’Rourke are already committed to the weekly drive.
Brad Moye (Marrar) and Max Tidd (university) have also exited.
The Jets have signed former Coolamon premiership player Zac Robinson. After a season off, the small forward will join brother Sam in playing under their cousin.
While players are the priority, the Jets game plan won’t change.
“More of our attacking football – we had a bit of leg-speed, play-on, take a bit of risk,” Robinson said.
Their Mitch Haddrill-led midfield was the Jets’ strength last year and the new coach is also hoping they’ll get some games out of highly promising schoolboys Jeromy Lucas and Chris Ryall when they’re home on holidays.
He’s excited to work with those players on the up but added it’s others with plenty of experience that helped convince him to take on coaching.
“It’s very daunting going into your first year but to have blokes out there like Chris Bell, Andrew Bonny, Ben Prentice, Sam Fisher - there’s plenty of help, plenty of experience to back me up,” Robinson said.
“And a lot of the older blokes just around the club have been really helpful.”
The Jets’ season will kick off with a tough road trip to The Rock on April 8.