ADAM Dowie says North Warrnambool Eagles will favour more youth development over widespread recruiting as it prepares for a premiership tilt in 2022.
Several debutants made a mark for the Bushfield-based club in 2021 as it battled depth issues.
Dowie, a multiple Hampden league premiership coach, wants to keep the pathway to senior footy open for aspiring juniors.
The Eagles have already signed West Coast premiership ruckman Nathan Vardy - the 30-year-old has family ties to the club - in a major coup as they pursue a maiden flag.
"The Nathan Vardy signing is obviously really big for us," Dowie said.
"And we know all of a sudden recruiting is going to be easy but one of the things we're going to be conscious of is that I don't want to go out and recruit 15 new players to the footy club.
We're conscious of not getting too many as we've got our young players and we don't want them to feel like they can't see a way they'll get there because there's too many in front of them.- Adam Dowie
"I want to make sure that there's a pathway for our young players. If that means we don't quite have enough (players), I'd rather it that way than having too many."
Dowie said the club would be "really selective" about recruits.
"We probably just need to recruit some blokes who are happy to play at 12pm and just play socially," he said.
"One of the things and the messages to my group (has been) Vardy has been massive for us and we've got a couple of others in the pipeline but we're conscious of not getting too many as we've got our young players and we don't want them to feel like they can't see a way they'll get there because there's too many in front of them.
"We might not quite have enough but we'll hopefully have a few more players than we did (in 2021)."
Dowie said his club would reflect proudly on its season.
The Eagles were the only side to beat powerhouses Koroit and South Warrnambool and trailed the Saints only on percentage when the season's final whistle blew this past Friday.
It meant no premier was crowned for the second-successive season after coronavirus also wiped out the 2020 campaign.
"I think when we sit back and look at it, I think our club should be really proud of how they've responded and rolled with the punches as a whole club," he said.
"I know North Warrnambool were really keen to do whatever it took. We would've played into October if that had been an option.
"In the end, it probably just got too hard."
The former Koroit, Warrnambool, Terang Mortlake and Nirranda mentor felt the club was "going places".
He said his players were now experts at training away from the club, something they needed to build upon from 2019.
"We feel like we're a club on the move, one going places. We feel like we've got a really good foundation," Dowie said.
"I didn't feel like we were quite there in 2019 in terms of training away from the club but they're really motivated by each other and are accountable to each other.
"I think our young players have really driven that. Our young players and our leadership group. Our older guys know they're probably getting towards the end and we do have a few like that."
Dowie said he felt for veterans like Matt Wines, Jordan Dillon, Tom Batten and Ben Mugavin who'd missed two chances at securing a premiership due to COVID-19.
But he said North Warrnambool Eagles would carry strong momentum into 2022 after a strong performance in 2021.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.