Bacchus Marsh was found out in the Ballarat Football League last year.
They might have been the reigning premier, but they discovered what happens when improvement does not continue to evolve.
The Cobras made some adjustments with the arrival of outstanding duo Scott Sherlock and Dean Heta with an eye on back-to-back flags, but cross-town rival Darley did more and got the Cobras’ measure over the season – not just on the final day.
It is difficult to label reaching a grand final a failure, but inside the Bacchus Marsh camp there are some harsh markers who see only a flag in 2018 as redemption.
This is exactly how the Cobras’ have approached the season ahead, with a rigorous recruiting drive aimed at initially ensuring a top two finish and the double chance that goes with it.
Coach Travis Hodgson said the Cobras had targeted quality players – former North Melbourne player Ben Speight, and Jacob Chisari (Williamstown), Daniel Foley (Werribee) and Jake Owen (Williamstown) straight out VFL ranks, and Aaron Willitts – to provide greater attacking potency and even more importantly versatility.
He said inflexibility was an issue.
There is no shortage of players who can play roles perfectly, but Hodgson believes the additions will give the ability to allow Bacchus Marsh to move the ball much more aggressively.
As well as changes in personnel, which includes the loss of Heta and Matt Denham, and long-term injuries to Kane White (knee reconstruction) and promising young forward Blake Graham (knee reconstruction), and a knee issue which will sideline Jake Bolton early, there is also a major adjustment in on-field leadership.
Club great Tyson Shea has ended a decade-long tenure as captain, handing over the reigns to Sherlock.
Shea was given the job as a raw youngster and led the Cobras through some tough times when even playing finals was nothing but a dream.
He battled through to captain their first BFL premiership team – a feat no one else will ever emulate and emains a intricate part of the midfield.
Hodgson said Shea had done nothing less than a “fantastic” job.
WHAT COACH TRAVIS HODGSON SAYS
Q: What do you see as key on-field strength?
It's about all-round strength. We've looked to add to a solid core which has served us well by injecting newcomers into the midfield and up forward in particular.
Q: What is you key message as coach this year?
We need to get better, particularly by way of ball movement. We tended to play safe last year. We need to be more adventurous.
Q: How have pre-season preparations gone?
We have recruited well, with the late arrival of Ben Speight providing an extra edge.
Q: Which player are you most excited about?
We are pleased with the experience we have introduced. We believe the influx help bring on youngsters such as Billy Griffiths, Dylon Bishop, Hamish Coulton and Nick Stuhldreier who as a collective still have great scope for development.
COBRAS’ FACT FILE
Coach: Travis Hodgson (third year) non-playing
2017 home and away: second (grand finalist)
13 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw
2017 best and fairest: Scott Sherlock
Jacob Chisari (South Mildura) *Williamstown VFL listed 2017
Matthew Chisari (Avondale Heights, EDFL)
Daniel Foley *Werribee VFL listed 2017
Harrison King (Myrtleford, OMFL) *Werribee VFL listed 2018
Jake Owen (Woodend-Hesket, RDFL) *Williamstown VFL listed 2017
Ben Speight (Wangaratta, OMFL)
Aaron Willitts (Epping, NFL)
Matt Denham (Melton)
Dean Heta (Albury, OMFL)
Brenton Payne (Southport, NEAFL) *North Ballarat VFL listed 2017
Jacob Wheelahan (Williamstown CYMS, VAFA) *North Ballarat VFL listed 2017
2018 VFL LISTED PLAYERS
Harrison King (Werribee)
SATURDAY, APRIL 21: Darley (h)
SATURDAY, APRIL 28: bye
SATURDAY, MAY 5: North Ballarat City (h)
SATURDAY, MAY 12: Melton South (a)
SATURDAY, MAY 26: East Point (a)
SATURDAY, JUNE 2: Ballarat (h)
SATURDAY, JUNE 9: Melton (a)
SATURDAY, JUNE 16: Redan (h)
SATURDAY, JUNE 23: Sunbury (h)
SATURDAY, JUNE 30: Lake Wendouree (a)
SATURDAY, JULY 7: Sebastopol (h)
SATURDAY, JULY 14: Darley (a)
SATURDAY, JULY 21: North Ballarat City (a)
SATURDAY, JULY 28: Lake Wendouree (h)
SATURDAY, AUGUST 4: bye
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11: Sunbury (a)
SATURDAY, AUGUST 18: Sebastopol (a)
SATURDAY, AUGUST 25: Melton (h)
* Play once: Ballarat (2017-10th), East Point (7th), Melton South (8th), Redan (4th)