Defender Michael Searl to captain the new-look North Ballarat Roosters

DEFENDER Michael Searl is set to captain the restructured North Ballarat Roosters into a new era.

Searl will headline a new-look Roosters’ leadership group that will seek to maintain cohesion in a playing group that will be without a reserves team for the first time since the club joined the Victorian Football League in 1996.

Fellow defenders Liam Hoy, Oli Tate and midfielder Nick Couch have been reappointed with Searl as Roosters’ leaders.

VFL representative player Lachie George, former Brisbane Lion Matt Austin and Luke Kiel – who captained the Roosters’ friendly against Northern Blues last month – have been promoted to join them.

Each was voted into the leadership group by their peers during the squad’s training camp in Lorne with Searl’s captaincy reappointment ratified by the board.

Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald said the camp had been a catalyst for a huge renewal in the club,

with players developing a strong sense to help each other.

The Roosters’ list has been cut to 36 players plus ruck prospect Kyle Hendy, who is on the long-term injury list due to back troubles.

Those not required at senior level – and the numbers will fluctuate with North Melbourne-listed players in the team – will return to home clubs.

Coaches and players have set strong expectations on the playing group, particularly with training, to ensure this will work.

“We explained to the boys, well done on getting on the list, the next step is getting a game and to keep getting a game,” FitzGerald said.

“This season is a real unknown for us. Most of us weren’t here, I wasn’t here, in 1996 because from 1997 we’ve had two teams in the VFL.

“I think it will strengthen the actual football pathway in the region.

“There has been a lot of positives out of the change. Clubs have been very supportive.”

The Roosters are three weeks out from their season opener against Collingwood at Victoria Park.

They start a series of important practice match hit-outs tonight.

The Roosters will face the Geelong VFL team in a curtain-raiser to a Geelong and North Melbourne AFL pre-season bout at Simonds Stadium.

A clash against Richmond’s new VFL team at Punt Road next week will follow, then a traditional game against Werribee – a key top-four contender and fellow North Melbourne partner – one week out from the season’s start.

FitzGerald said each match was deliberately picked to take Roosters’ players well out of their comfort zone.

Key players, like Searl and Hoy, will miss this evening’s game due to work commitments and the Roosters are approaching it as a great chance to offer others exposure while adjusting game plans.

GEELONG v NORTH BALLARAT

at Simonds Stadium, tonight 3.40pm

TEAM

B: Kiel Delaney* Warren#

HB: Wilkins* Boseley Currie

C: Horbury Rippon Austin

HF: Staley Anthony Cook

F: Schache Grigg George

R: Wallace# Dumon* Jacobs*

INTER: Anderson, Baxter, Conroy, Tsitas, Scott, Peel, Peters, Murphy.

*North Melbourne-listed #North Melbourne rookie

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