Pre-season training has been in full swing for a while however the Bartercard Gold Coast Blue Tongues commence their official tryouts for the 2011 squad on 22 March at Bundall Iceland. With Adam Geric and Alex Boyd already named to the team, the Blue Tongues have signed another 6 returning locals to the squad, rewarding off-ice training, hard work, dedication, loyalty and leadership. This means, with 8 local players signed and allowing for 6 imports on the roster, only 6 positions will be available at tryouts, along with 3 goaltending positions. And there are currently approximately 18 local players vying for those 6 jerseys, along with 8 imports vying for a place.
"We're very excited at the strength of our local players this year," says General Manager, Dave Emblem. "Unfortunately, there will be some very good locals who won't make our playing squad of 20 players. It really is up to the locals not signed yet to pick up their commitment to the team, and training to give themselves every chance of selection."
Returning to the Blue Tongues defensive core are fan favourites Ben Spillane, Cam Trew, Marco Bertossa and Ross Howell. Last season, Spillane, Bertossa and Howell played both forward and defense, yet this year they will be on the defensive line.
"I've always been pretty defensive minded and playing up front in the past has been more a case of an excess of quality defensemen and lack of quality big men up front," said Ben Spillane when asked of his return to the blue line. "I think the main thing for me is learning over the past years and knowing when the correct time to jump up and join the rush is vital."
And as the veterans of the team, Ben Spillane, Marco Bertossa and Ross Howell take a strong leadership role, both on and off the ice.
"The Blue Tongues will improve in this season and the future moving forward we need to develop the skills of our local guys and the youth coming through," Spillane said. "In the past, you could rely on 2 or 3 star imports with very few top local players to do well in this league. These days, teams like Adelaide and Melbourne Ice are the powerhouses of the league and it's because their local guys are so strong. The imports are just cancelling each other out and it's all coming down to the second and third lines to win games. For us to win games and ultimately championships, we need to have solid local talent that can play regular shifts and produce points every game and not rely on playing our imports every second shift and hoping they score 6 goals a night."
Current Australian representative forward Dave Upton and past Australian representative Brad Young return to the Blue Tongues' forward line up this season, both concur with Spillane's assessment.
"A team that works hard, and works together will always be successful," Upton said. "Intense practices and good strategy will always benefit a team regardless of the league they play in."
And play hard they will. Under new coaches Reese Kalleitner and Peter Nixon, the Gold Coast Blue Tongues head into the 2011 AIHL season with a singular team goal; get to, and excel in the finals in the first week of September.