With a new head coach and no fewer than 10 key starters gone from last year’s squad, 2016 will be a season of transition for the Okanagan Sun.
The defending B.C. Football Conference champs will take the first step along that road on Saturday as the club’s main training camp kicks off at the Apple Bowl practise fields.
Close to 75 players—about half of them newcomers—will take to the field under the watchful eye of first-year head man Ben Macauley and his coaching staff.
Despite the departures of impact veterans such as Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Jonas Gering, Kyle Kawamoto, Kyle Patchell, Cam Bedore and Josiah Joseph, Macauley is confident in his stable of returning veterans.
The likes of Layne Hull, Lucas Machado, Kasey Russell, Michele Vecchio, Liam Wishart and Eli Haynes should give the Sun staff a solid foundation to work with.
“The comments I’m hearing from returning players who started last year or were pushing to start, they’re feeling more confident, they’re feeling good about the opportunity they have this year to make a difference,” said Macauley, who replaces Shane Beatty after three seasons at the helm.
“There will also be new faces all around this year. We’re stressing to the guys don’t try and be somebody else, to try and do too much and replace those guys who are gone. Just be yourselves.”
Among the newcomers to watch will be quarterback Foster Martens, who played last season at the University of Manitoba.
Kian Ishani, a receiver from Halifax, is also expected to be a key addition to the offense.
With so many new faces and jobs up for grabs, Macauley said training camp will have a fundmental-based approach, as players and coaches become familiar with one another.
“We’ll control what we can control, we’ll work on getting better at blocking and tackling, put our heads down for 10 practises at main camp and work hard at getting better,” he said. “We’ll be in pretty good shape fundamentally by the time camp is done, and if we do those things well, we’ll be headed in the right direction.”
The Sun will kick off the 2016 BCFC regular season July 23 in Chilliwack.