MEET THE CATS: New coach, new captains, new expectations
AUSSIE RULES: They enter the 2019 Queensland Football Association season with a new coach, new recruits and massive expectations, but a driven and passionate Gympie Cats squad aren't feeling the pressure.
Last year the Cats experienced plenty of ups and downs before they ended their final season in the AFL Wide Bay competition in fairytale fashion - hoisting the premiership cup with a 14.11 (95) to 10.5 (65) win over bitter rivals the Hervey Bay Bombers.
AFL Queensland announced the Cats as the final addition to the QFA Division 3 competition for 2019 last November, joining the Jindalee Jaguars to make a 10-team competition.
That was the first in a string of changes, including the arrival of new coach Dave 'Tinners' Carroll in December.
With new faces from the south joining established names on the Cats' list, Carroll said he hadn't tried to change his squad's approach too much over the pre-season.
"What I wanted to do was come in and respond to the group and what they're doing, I didn't want to change too much,” he said.
"I've tried to add a bit of polish and tune the professional aspect of our approach, we have a fantastic core of very talented players.
"This is a respectful town playing in a respectful community, playing for each other. The numbers at training can be a bit up and down at times but that's country football.
"This team plays great contested footy, they go hard at the ball, that's what they love. I've just tried to add a bit of outside polish.”
A swathe of talent from last year's premiership remains this season, including newly-elected co-captains Jack Cross and Jesse Lawrence.
Scott Stiefler, the 2018 Stedman Medallist and grand final stand-out, has also returned after considering retirement at last season's magical end.
Carroll said the midfield duo and the wider leadership group had impressed with their initiative in the pre-season.
He said he would draw on his extensive experience as a player/coach in Albury, Wagga Wagga and the Noosa Tigers to lead the Cats in their new era.
"'Crossy' is a very well-respected member of our team on and off the field, he goes hard at the ball and plays for his teammates. He really took a lead in the pre-season and made his voice heard when he felt something wasn't right,” Carroll said.
"Jesse is similar, he's another local boy and a typical leader. He cares about his teammates and plays in a good manner, he's a disciplined footballer.”
The Gympie Cats host Bay Power at Ray Warren Oval today in their final pre-season tilt at 3pm.