The Northern Bullants have locked in the club’s coaching panel for the 2021 VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition.

Senior coach Josh Fraser will be joined by experienced assistants Ben Hart (midfield), Perry Meka (forwards) and Paul Dunn (defenders).

Dene Rodger will be the club’s High Performance Manager.

Hart, a 311-game player with Adelaide, has been an assistant coach at AFL level for 12 of the past 13 seasons, sharing his time between Collingwood and the Crows where he recently completed a second three-year stint.

Fraser said the four signings were indicative of the Bullants’ approach to building a strong club from its very foundations.

“Our priority in our first year as a standalone club is to establish the best program we possibly can. To do that, we tried to identify really good people who want to invest in the club and the program and establish the club,” Fraser said.

“To bring in these three coaches gives us that base and grounding to really launch the program moving forward.

“They are all really good people first and foremost, and are all very capable coaches. We’ve already seen the way they have connected with the playing group and the way they have gelled as a coaching group. They are going to be a great asset for the club.”

Hart’s role at the club will involve the overseeing of the midfield group as well as the potential to expand his involvement into other areas of the program.

“There are a number of really positive factors in getting Ben on board,” Fraser said.

“When I sat down with him, a lot of our thoughts and ideas aligned really well. He has had great experience as a player and as a coach at the highest level and he has been in different environments, so he will bring great ideas to the table and provide great support for myself.

“The environment creates a great opportunity for him to grow as well. He will assume different responsibilities from time to time, and we couldn’t be more impressed with the person he is and the way he has embraced his role at the Bullants.”

Meka and Dunn, too, are no strangers to coaching at senior levels.

Meka has more than 20 years of coaching experience to his name, and kicked over 2000 goals in a country football career that exceeded 500 games. He was involved at the Bullants during its incarnation as the Northern Blues between 2017 and 2020, and has coaching and operational experience at Labrador in the QAFL and St Albans in Victoria.

Dunn, meanwhile, has coaching experience in Essendon and Coburg’s VFL programs as well as through the Essendon District Football League.

“Perry has got very good relationships with the players. He has great passion and energy for the Bullants and he is so reliable and dependable,” Fraser said.

“Even with the experience he has had, he is still looking to learn and improve as a coach, which is so appealing to me and the rest of the coaches as well as the players.

“Paul is similar to Perry. He is heavily invested in the development side of our playing group. He has had heaps of experience at VFL level through Coburg, and at local level as well, and with him, we have brought a really solid person into the club who is going to invest in the players.

“We’ve got guys who will build relationships and are invested in the club at all levels.”

High Performance Manager Rodger arrives with vast experience in VFL and AFL programs, having spent several years with Richmond and North Melbourne before making the move to the Bullants.

“We wanted to bring in the best person we could to look after our high performance, and Dene came highly recommended through a club connection,” Fraser explained.

“He is very highly regarded, and while he had a couple of other things on the table, we feel he was really energized and excited about the opportunity we presented.

“We’ve already seen the rapport and respect he has built with our players. He is going to be a fantastic asset and give our players the best chance to condition themselves for a state league season.”

With the club’s coaching panel complete, the Bullants will now shift their focus onto finalizing their playing list for the 2021 season.

“As each day and each week goes by, I get more and more excited about what we have been able to build so far,” Fraser said.

“When you consider the club was on its knees when the alignment with Carlton ended in March, to actually have a pre-season and have a plan moving forward as a coaching group, you get really excited about it.

“It is going to be a process but we are committed to it, and encourage anyone who wants to be a part of the club in any way, shape or form as a member, a sponsor or on game days to reach out.

“We want to be a community club and have made some really good progress with that so far, but we understand there is a lot more we can do, so we implore all our fans to stay as connected as they can and enjoy the ride together.”

The club’s membership campaign will be launched shortly, and 2021 merchandise is available for purchase online.

The club wishes to acknowledge the generosity and support of its partners who have helped bring the Ants back to life.

If you would like to be involved in our journey as a sponsor, please contact [email protected]

Northern Bullants Coaching Panel – 2021
Josh Fraser – Senior Coach
Ben Hart – Assistant Coach (Midfield)
Perry Meka – Assistant Coach (Forwards)
Paul Dunn – Assistant Coach (Backline)
Dene Rodger – High Performance Manager