Top of the list of priorities for Spotswood heading into the new season is arresting its slide in Western Region Football League division 1.

The Woodsmen have brought in well-respected coach Anthony Eames to ensure the downward trend does not continue in 2017.

Since their last premiership in 2011, the Woodsmen have been in a gradual decline, finishing runners-up in three consecutive seasons, fourth in 2015 and, alarmingly, fifth last season.

“The club is not used to being a middle-of-the-rung club, so it was crucial from their perspective that some changes were put in place,” Eames said.

The regeneration process began when Eames took over as coach of Spotswood in the off season. There were few bigger names available in the WRFL coaching pool than Eames, a man who dragged Altona to relevancy again with a flag in 2012, and who has overseen the WRFL interleague program.

Talking to people around McLean Reserve over summer, Eames got the feeling some Woodsmen may have taken their eyes off the ball in the past two seasons, so his main aim was to get the training standards back to the optimum level.

“It’s more an increase in the commitment levels required from players, which they’ve all bought into,” Eames said. “Our fitness levels needed to go up, and that’s taken place.

“We’ve changed the structure of training and that’s made a difference. Things are looking alright for us, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

What Eames has admired about Spotswood from afar has been the club’s willingness to promote from within. The Woodsmen have always been strong about

developing their own talent and only top up externally on an as-needs basis.

So Eames’ first mission was to see if he could woo back some of the homegrown talent the Woodsmen had lost in recent years.

Eames struck gold with the return of former premiership players Wayne Patak and David Isbister.

“Spotty’s strength is not necessarily the players it recruits, it’s the players that come from within,” Eames said.

“Our mainstays are our born and bred … those players are still there this year, and they’re fitter this year than previous years.”

To keep up with the leaders, Spotswood had to cast its net outside the fold to find recruits who could improve the squad. The biggest of them all is new ruckman Dylan Jones, once listed with VFL club Werribee.

Jones, who has played most of his football with St Kevin’s Old Boys in the amateurs, is not a total stranger to the Woodsmen.

“He’s a local boy and his dad played in a premiership at Spotswood back in the 1970s,” Eames said. “He’s athletic, he’s got a good set of hands and he’s going to play a variety of roles.”

Gareth Newton came from second tier Yarraville-Seddon and will offer flexibility to play forward or back. Lachlan Fairley is back after being struck down with an ACL last season, and Murray Boyd returns as captain.

So Spotswood’s vibe is positive heading into Saturday’s season opener against Sunshine Kangaroos.

BY LANCE JENKINSON – Star Weekly