Young Demons to Lead the Charge

Bentleigh is banking on the natural improvement of its crop of talented youngsters as it seeks atonement for last year’s demoralising grand final defeat.

The Demons were smashed from pillar to post in last year’s Division 1 Senior decider, eventually going down by 107 points as Dingley romped to back-to-back titles.

But coach Paul Dimattina believes the club’s improvement will come from within, rather than an external recruitment drive.

“Probably a little bit of natural improvement from some of our younger guys,” Dimattina responded when asked how he thought Bentleigh could go one better in 2017.

“We’ve got a really good core of young blokes, mixed with the oldies, and hopefully just the bitter taste of that horrible defeat we had last year will drive the guys one step further."

The club has not been as active in the off-season transfer period as other Division 1 clubs, giving further credence to Dimattina’s youth policy. However, the acquisitions of former Melbourne and Carlton defender Chris Johnson and ex-Frankston Dolphin Damien Stone will further bolster the side with much-needed experience.

But the two additions that will have many at Arthur Street most excited are young playmakers Brody Lawford and Jackson Meredith, both of whom are now raring to go after missed most of last season with long-term injuries.

Midfield ace Meredith suffered a broken leg in Round 4, putting him out of action for the remainder of the year, but said he is enjoying being back into full training and is gearing up for a big 2017 campaign.

“Definitely getting back into the swing of things… The body’s fine but it’s mainly just mental,” Meredith said.

“I’m moving free, still strapping and doing all the essentials, but no limitations anymore so it’s good to be out there running around to be honest.”

Gun utility Lawford said the feeling around the group this preseason has been very positive, with the devastating experience of last year’s grand final helping to galvanise the group and fuelling their desire for atonement this season.

“Yeah, good (preseason so far.) I think everyone’s trying to be positive, trying to use that (loss) to motivate us to go one better this year,” he said.

“We hope to improve, get in some more talent and hopefully the young guys can all blend together this year and try and take us one (win further).”

Bentleigh kicks off its 2017 campaign with a home clash against fierce local rivals St Pauls on April 8.

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