Defender Jacob Weitering, one of three new faces to have joined the Blues’ leadership group, said on Monday a fresh mentality under Teague – now with the interim tag removed – had helped the squad.
“It’s been a bit of a fresh start for the boys. It was probably needed. You saw at the back end of last year, the way we were playing our football, we were really confident, risk free and enjoying our football,” he said.
By being risk free, Weitering meant the Blues were prepared to take the game on, without the immediate threat of the coach’s disapproval.
“That’s what we all started playing footy for. You shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. You are always going to make them in a game,” Weitering said.
“For us, if you do make one, just make sure you don’t make two and go about your business and be confident with who you are and the way you go about your football and get your job done.”
Under fitness guru Andrew Russell, the Blues have transformed physically and should have the run to match all rivals.
Rising Star winner Sam Walsh, elevated into the leadership group in only his second season, said the Blues wanted to play with “excitement”.
“As a team we are, hopefully, known as hard working and we play for each other and play with excitement,” he said.
“Obviously, we have a long way to go but I think we have had a great pre-season so far, like a lot of [teams] have. I am sure if we keep each other accountable and keep working hard, we should be able to put our best foot forward.”
The Blues will benefit from having Sam Docherty, a co-captain alongside Patrick Cripps, back after two years ruined by serious knee injuries. He will strengthen a back-line led by Weitering and Liam Jones, the latter having also joined the leadership group three years after his career appeared almost over before he was revitalised by a switch into defence.
Nic Newman has also impressed in defence this summer while Sam Petrevski-Seton will also spend time in defensive 50, allowing him to use his excellent foot skills.
“He [Petrevski-Seton] is great on his left and right foot and he is actually becoming a really good one-on-one defender for a small guy. He is certainly getting a bit of versatility into his game,” Weitering said.
However, he, along with ruckman Matthew Kreuzer and forward Harry McKay, were on light duties at training on Monday.
Jones, who is likely to take Jack Riewoldt come the season opener, said the Blues would be ready to handle the Tigers.
The Blues haven’t featured in September since 2013 but rising expectations have some believing they should at least seriously push for the top eight this year.
“There is always going to be expectation, external noise as well … the boys are really positive about the game plan, the way we are playing our football and we are really positive about the way we going about it,” Weitering said.
Former skipper Marc Murphy and veteran midfielder Ed Curnow are also in the leadership group.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.