BENDIGO Gold coach Aussie Jones left Epsom-Huntly Recreation Reserve sporting a broad grin on Friday.
Nanjing Night Net

After a testing first season in charge of the VFL club, Jones couldn’t have been happier with the unofficial on-field start of his second year in charge.

The former St Kilda star had plenty of positives to focus on after watching his squad do battled in an intra-club practice.

“From where we are now compared to this time last year is chalk and cheese,” Jones said.

“I’m really happy with the way the boys went about it today.

“Yes, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

The shining light on the field was former Bendigo Pioneers star Sam Heavyside.

The teenager’s clearance efforts and work ethic stood out.

Another former Pioneer, Liam Byrne, impressed in the first half, while key forward Billy McInnesshowed he has benefited from a big pre-season.

Jones said the inclusion of Heavyside and Byrne through the midfield would take the pressure off established on-ballers Alik Magin, Steven Stroobants,Jake Aarts and Daniel Toman.

“The performances of the new faces on the list gives the guys who played last year much more confidence,” Jones said.

“We’re going to bat deeper through the middle this year which should enable us to run out games much better.”

The Gold’s intra-club practice match was the highlight on day one of a two-day training camp.

The day started with a 2.4km time-trial around Lake Weeroona.

Toman was first in 7mins 27 seconds ahead of Heavyside 7:52, Aarts 7:57 and Riley McIvor 7:59.

“This time last year we only had one player break 8:10 for the 2.4km,” Jones said.

“This year we’ve had about nine. That’s a great sign going forward.”

Day two of the camp on Saturday is highlighted by a Backyard Blitz style working bee for Amicus.

CRUNCH: Daniel Toman is tackled by Jeremy Lambden.

GOOD SKILLS: Mitch Hough. Pictures: JODIE DONNELLAN

UNDER THE PUMP: Che Walls tries to get past Alik Magin.

IMPRESSIVE: Sam Heavyside breaks out of a pack.

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