The Northern Bullants made history when it fielded a standalone team for the first time since 2002 against Williamstown on Sunday.

Although the Bullants fell 52 points short to one of the VFL’s perennial premiership fancies, there was much to like about the team’s performance and effort across the four quarters.

Perhaps even more importantly than that, though, was the level of support in the stands at Preston City Oval, and the sight of the famous red and white jumpers once again gracing the hallowed turf under the Bullants name.

“The support has been overwhelming in many respects,” coach Josh Fraser said.

“What we were going to get today was the unknown, to a large degree, in terms of turn out and support but it was enormous.

“I hope our supporters and members and people who came were proud of the effort and the way our young group went about their footy. We will keep getting better and growing what we’re doing.

“I’m really proud that they have come together pretty quickly – that group today would not have played together before, as we made some changes from our practice matches.

“We know where we’re at as a footy club, on and off the field we have to keep working as hard as we can to set the place up for a really bright future.

“Today was another important step forward for us.”

The Bullants began the game well, spending plenty of time inside their attacking arc until late in the second quarter when Williamstown began to gain control, kicking a brace of five unanswered goals to finish the half 39 points up.

While it meant the pattern was set, it didn’t prevent the Ants from fighting tooth and nail during the second half, as the likes of captain Tom Wilson, Jean-Luc Velissaris, Billy Murphy and Glenn Strachan set the tone for their teammates.

“I thought some of our players stood up really well against a really seasoned opposition,” Fraser continued.

“Tommy Wilson just continues to lead the club from the front, on and off the field. I was really pleased with the way Paul Ahern played, and he showed his class at different times. Daniel Hughes is a new recruit and his ability to compete as an undersized ruckman was really impressive. Baxter Knight’s game was pretty strong on the wing, too.

“We had a really young defence against a pretty mature Williamstown forward line, so there were a lot of little things across the ground that we will walk away from, review on the tape and work hard with our players to keep getting better.”

The Seagulls are a VFL powerhouse, and to begin the season against both the Gulls and Box Hill will give Fraser’s Bullants a great early marker of what to reach for as the group develops.

“We played a really strong football club that traditionally plays finals and figures in Preliminary Finals, so we couldn’t have asked for a better test in round one.

“Given where our club has come from in the last six months and the way we have been able to bring our playing list together, I thought it was a great challenge and our boys embraced that challenge.

“We fell short on the scoreboard, but we’re walking away with so many things we are really pleased with as well as some areas we want to keep growing.

“Next week’s our next opportunity. We spoke before the game about how we are going to be a footy club that keeps embracing opportunity, and we are going to run towards it, not away from it.

“Box Hill is very much the same as Williamstown. It was said before the game that we have a really tough start to the year and that’s what we want, we want to embrace those challenges.

“There are no easy games, and we’re looking forward to going to Box Hill and challenging ourselves against another team that is going to contend for a flag.

“On the whole, I’m just really proud that we are still a part of this competition. We know we have some work to do and it will be a work in progress all year. We understand that, and the boys are determined to keep working hard. We will just keep looking for improvement week-to-week.”

Northern Bullants     0.3     1.6     4.10     6.11 (47)

Williamstown            2.4     7.9     12.10     14.15 (99)

Goals – Northern Bullants: Ahern, Murphy, Smith, Knight, Velissaris, Boyd

Williamstown: Ottavi 4, Rodda 3, Gallucci 3, Hibberd, Greiser, Hunt, Gown