HE'S retained the core of his grand final squad, so the focus for Bathurst Giants coach Mark Kennedy is to build fitness and increase physicality ahead of the 2021 AFL Central West season.
The Giants continued their trend of improving each year under Kennedy's guidance when reaching the AFLCW's men's tier one grand final last season.
Though the Bathurst Bushrangers comfortably won that decider, Kennedy knows his squad will be better for the experience. It gives him a good foundation on which to build for another tier one campaign.
"We're just going to put a big pre-season in this year to get prepared and maybe change the game plan up a little bit," he said.
"Fitness and physicality is what we really want to work on."
Gone from the 2020 side are tall-timber Dylan Furnell, who is returning to South Australia, Jacob Molkentin and Nic Broes.
But skipper Sean Noyen is back, 2020 leading goal kicker Sam Sloan plus most consistent award winner Bailey Brien will be back, as well as a host of talented, developing juniors.
"It was really good to make that grand final and the game [preliminary final] we played against Dubbo I thought we played really good, they were unlucky last year not to get through to the grand final. I think they had the team to do it, it was just a couple of passages where we dominated in that final," Kennedy said.
"We've got guys who are going to come back and play like Sam Sloan, Sean Noyen, Bailey Brien, they are coming back.
"When you look at the likes Liam Cooke coming back, he's a young bloke coming through, we've got Brody Taylor coming through, Cooper Brien who's a really skilful kid, Rocco Yates.
"Then you throw in Zac Yandle, he trialled really well for GWS in the under 18s. He will bring back some hunger out of that as he just missed out on phase two which is pretty good for a 17-year-old. We've got a lot young talent. We'll have a good squad to put on the paddock."
As well as being excited about what his squad will produce in 2021, Kennedy is hoping the Giants' bid to field a men's tier two team come to fruition.
The Giants did not have the numbers to field a pair of senior men's sides last year, but named Andrew Collins as coach of the 2021 second tier outfit in early December as they aimed to attract players early.
If the Giants get the numbers they will join the Bathurst Bushrangers Rebels and Outlaws, Parkes, Cowra, Orange and possibly the Dubbo Demons in the second tier.
"With the second tier coming back, I think that's pretty exciting, who knows what will come from that?," Kennedy said.
"Reddo is pumped and he's a great people person, it think it's great move having him coach that tier two side, he might drag a couple of the old Eagles players back to play."
The Bathurst Giants will start senior pre-season training on Monday, January 18 from 6pm at George Park 1, with new players welcome to attend.