There is plenty of questions facing the Goulburn Valley Suns heading into the 2018 National Premier League Two campaign.
But none greater than if the side which finished fourth in East conference last season can make the leap to promotion candidacy?
With many players coming and going, the challenge for the Suns is to quickly integrate new talents and take their game to a new level.
And with foundation Suns player Craig Carley coming in as coach, replacing Nick Kalafatis, it is an exciting time for a club on the rise.
‘‘We want to win every game and I haven’t come in to aim for second, third or fourth — the aim is to win the competition, but we understand there’s nine other teams looking to do the same thing,’’ Carley said.
‘‘We want to play an attacking brand of football and at a high intensity.
‘‘We have to take risks and sometimes we will get pinched on the counter, but essentially we are an attacking, exciting team that won’t sit back and wants to score goals.’’
While the club eyes off bigger and better things, Carley said the fundamental goal was creating a club culture allowing it to match historically stronger teams.
‘‘There are other teams with bigger budgets, but we certainly expect to be very competitive,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s been a big turnover of players, so it’s really about consolidating and setting a platform.
‘‘If I’m honest we might not quite be ready for the NPL, but we need to build a foundation to match it with teams that have existed for 50, 60 or 70 years, so when we do make that jump we aren’t setting ourselves up for failure.’’
Departing players include Lewis Coyle, Rob Hughes, Shaun Kane, Thomas Leech and Geordie Lelliott, but the Suns have loaded up with young talent.
And added experienced class with visa signings Billy Marshall and Jordan Barrow poised to lead the attacking and defensive units respectively.
After it looked star midfielder Jamie England would head to Green Gully, the man Carley labelled the best in the competition re-signed and will be crucial to any success.
Coming off a strong 2017, Carley said a defensive improvement was critical to taking a step forward with the side conceding nearly two goals a game last season.
‘‘Defensively, we conceded far too many goals and it’s the area I focused on particularly with recruiting,’’ he said.
‘‘A lot of players have gone that we’d have liked to keep, but at the same time we’re really happy with the squad we’ve put together.
‘‘There’s a different feel and a different culture at the club, we’ve linked up a lot more closely with our juniors with Shabs (Shaban Mehmet) as an assistant coach as well as technical director.’’
After a marathon preseason through the hot summer, the Suns will look to sprint out of the blocks with four of the first six games at McEwen Reserve.