North out to make amends
Friday, 8th April, 2011
By Darrin Manuel
After making a disappointing exit from last year's finals series, the North Football Club is out to make amends.
The Bulldogs loomed as the club most likely to stand between a rampaging Central side and the 2010 flag but were bundled out by a determined South in September.
North coach David Ruddock said the early exit had been felt hard at the club and would be a spur heading into the 2011 season.
"Any time North finish out of the Grand Final the improvement will come next year - if you don't play in a Grand Final it's unacceptable," he said.
"The players and the club as a whole can't see any reason why they shouldn't be in a Grand Final every year."
North's pre-season campaign got off to a slow start in the Lightning Cup with the Bulldogs registering just one win from their three games.
Ruddock wasn't fazed by the results however, and said the competition was used purely to give everyone on the list a good run.
"I was quite happy with the weekend. It was actually our first hit-out, where other teams have had four or five hit-outs.
"I played 48 players and just played half and half in each game to get a bit of a look at a number of different players.
"There were a couple of players that performed better than I thought."
North have endured a different pre-season training regime to previous years with all sessions taking place at the Norm Fox Oval rather than the Jubilee Oval. The club's traditional home was off limits due to preparations for the Big Bash cricket match.
With no goal posts to work with at the Norm Fox oval, the club has had a big focus on running and fitness, and Ruddock said he believed it would hold the players in good stead.
"We realise we have to improve ten per cent in fitness and ability, and we're a lot fitter than we were this time last year.
"The improvement will come from that extra fitness and from players who have played 20 to 50 games. I'm asking a hell of a lot more from our second and third year players.
"We've asked them to step up in regard to fitness and skill and they have."
Ruddock predicted big things from youngsters Dylan Stuart, Kale Grundy and Jed Watson, who has returned to the club from Adelaide.
Other additions for the Dogs include Adelaide-based wingman Michael Mason and forward Oscar Richards. Mobile ruckman Nathan Rayner will also return from a knee injury.
Richards and Watson should help offset the loss of the dangerous Anthony Henderson, who moved to West during the preseason.
The duo should offer the club more potency up forward and place less reliance on the club's midfielders to kick a winning score.
"We'll have extra talls up there this year and work with a different forward structure," said Ruddock.
"We're going to have more forward pressure on the ball coming out, and our scoreboard pressure has to improve.
"We kicked a hell of a lot of points last year when we were in a position to kick goals."
Ruddock said he expected a close competition overall in 2011 and welcomed the return of West as a competitive outfit.
"I'm really looking forward to the year, it's going to be a challenge. There'll be four strong clubs which makes you concentrate every week.
"We're expecting a very even competition and it's going to come down to coaching ability and the players' ability to be consistent."