Fewer injuries and a comfortable mid-table finish would suit Eltham coach Tim Bongetti.

Every club wants to play finals but there are no grand predictions as the Panthers return to NFNL Division 1 for the first time since 2017.

The club lost just two games last season before romping to a 21-year drought-breaking Division 2 premiership.

Bongetti knows it won’t be as simple in 2024.

“We had our pre-season camp up at Maryborough and did a bit of goalsetting,” Bongetti sai

“It wasn’t my goals or the committee’s goals, it was the playing group, so we’ve got some internal goals and no matter where we finish, if we can tick those off then we think we’ve had a good year.

“There are things in footy you can’t control, bottom teams that knock off top sides and top sides that punish bottom teams.

“We would love to be middle table and if we can be pushing for that fifth spot, you get into finals and anything can happen.

“Some things you can control and some you can’t, so we’ve just got to control what we can and try to accomplish our goals.”

Having won the senior-reserve grade premiership double last year, Eltham’s depth is enviable.

The Panthers have strengthened the squad with the addition of former juniors, ex-Collingwood AFL-listed and current Carlton VFL-listed forward Liam McMahon and Jaden Collins.

James Marchbank (Diamond Creek) and Alex Rigney (Greensborough) have also jumped on board with the club set to unveil more recruits before the blockbuster Good Friday season-opener.

However, small forward Daniel Owen (Banyule), Damon Braby (Watsonia), Liam Waldron, Corey Middleton (both Epping) and Bradyn Taglieri (Old Eltham) have moved on.

After suffering a knee injury last season, Collins, in particular, has caught Bongetti’s eye and looms as a damaging swingman.

“Him getting back to his junior club with his mates, enjoying footy, he’s running around with a smile,” Bongetti said.

“Coming back from a knee reco, it proves – and for life in general – when you’re somewhere you want to be you get the best out of yourself.

He’s moving really well and his fitness has gone to another level.

“Jaden’s got some personal goals, he wants to establish himself as a consistent Division 1 footballer before he tries to go back and hunt a VFL contract.

“Spending 12 months out we’ll be flexible, we might get him around the footy and pinch-hit in the ruck and there’ll be times he’s at both ends of the ground.”

Collins, along with young tall Jameson Wood, who played 15 senior matches and kicked eight goals in 2023, will see more time in the ruck with premiership big man Tom Goodwin living in the Northern Territory.

“We hope to get (Goodwin) for a few games this season but living 1000km from Darwin and then flying to Melbourne, it’s a big ask,” Bongetti said.

“We’ll have Collo and Jamo Wood and the comp has lost a lot of ruckmen in the last six months.

“The premier rucks aren’t there, so having a more mobile, athletic ruckman and mids around the feet is almost like Richmond under Damien Hardwick, so there’ll be times we go in with four mids and look to compete.”

Eltham will have a combined training, match sim against Parkside on Wednesday night before a full practice match against Essendon District club St Albans on Saturday.

The Panthers will launch the NFNL season in the return of the traditional Good Friday blockbuster against Greensborough at War Memorial Reserve.