Northern Bullants coach Josh Fraser has outlined just how the club was revived after the rug was pulled out from under them by Carlton 12 months ago.
The Blues terminated their relationship with the 139-year-old club as part of surviving the COVID-19 shutdown.
Fraser, who served as the Northern Blues’ head coach before the decision and has stuck with the VFL side, said in the aftermath he would’ve given “long, long, long odds” that they would successfully rebuild the club and take part in the 2021 VFL season.
“It’s certainly been a journey, it’s been a hell of a lot of work going into this a little bit blind, not exactly knowing what the end result would be and probably taking a leap of faith myself and a number of other people, but we’ve all embraced the challenge that’s been put in front of us,” the former Collingwood ruckman told SEN Mornings.
“I guess at the end of the day for a lot of people keeping this footy club alive was the priority so we were prepared to do as much as we possibly could and we’re proud to sit here now a few days away from Round 1 and know that the Preston and Northern Bullants Football Club is still operational.
“I don’t think anyone would’ve given us a chance to keep this thing up and going and there’s still probably a section of people who just assumed when that alignment ended that the Northern Bullants would just continue on as normal but effectively, the club was dead.
“We’ve had to go through a long, lengthy process, we’ve had to tick a lot of boxes, we’ve had to make sure we had our strategic plan in place and obviously build some strong relationships with key stakeholders.
“That’s all been part of the process to get the club up and running and get the approval to partake in the competition.
“When the reality sets in of actually staffing a football program and getting players and trying to hit the ground running as best you can and doing it in a COVID climate as well, that’s been another challenge as well.
“We’re all really proud of the work we’ve put in. We know we have got a lot of hard work left in front of us, but we’re confident we can keep building this football club and keep it alive and set it on a really good path to the future.”
The VFL season gets underway this weekend and the Bullants have brought back a few key players from previous incarnations including captain Tom Wilson, defender Glenn Strachan and Hisham Kerbatieh.
While their focus was on building a young list and providing opportunity to those who missed the draft, they have signed some ex-AFL talent, including North Melbourne midfielder Paul Ahern.
Former Bulldogs defender Kieran Collins and delisted Carlton pair Ben Silvagni and Finbar O’Dwyer are also on the list.
Fraser explained why he was so keen to stick with the club and help rebuild it.
“It ended so quickly, there wasn’t a lot of communication or dialogue around the termination of it,” he said.
“I guess from my point of view I saw how much that hurt and affected a lot of people who had been involved with the football club for a long time and I was also a casualty of that losing my role.
“So for me it was an opportunity to try and help a group of people who were so connected to the Bullants and also selfishly a great personal development opportunity to see what goes into running a football club and in this case keeping one alive.”
The Northern Bullants will host fierce rivals Williamstown at Preston City Oval to kick off the VFL season on Sunday.
They’re fixtured for their first clash with Carlton in Round 11.