Bears Primed For Drought-Breaking Flag
Season 2016 was a watershed year for the Caulfield Bears.
For so long starved of success, the club finally reached its first senior Grand Final in 22 long years. At long last, the Bears had shed its image of mediocrity and finally arrived as a powerhouse club.
While the fairy-tale ending failed to eventuate last year, Caulfield nevertheless enters the 2017 Division 2 season brimming with confidence and the enviable tag of premiership favouritism.
And the club itself is more than happy to embrace its newly established status as competition frontrunners.
“It’s nice to be the team to be chased for a while,” senior coach Steve Kidd said.
“We’ve been chasing long enough now, we’re essentially on top of the pile and let them come at us.”
But how will the Bears manage to take that next step and achieve the ultimate glory?
“That’s probably the million-dollar question for us at the moment,” Kidd admitted.
"We just think (there’s) a couple of areas of, not deficiency, but areas we can improve on in terms of our outside run and ball use. We can hopefully clean those up and it will make us a better side.”
Kidd has also identified depth as key development area for the club, and there have been several off-season recruits that will certainly assist in this area.
But one high-profile recruit has attracted more attention than the rest.
“We’ve had Brad Julier come along and is helping us out in certain areas, obviously Port (Colts) coach last year,” Kidd revealed.
“(We’re) over the moon… his first night he’s had an impact with some of our ruckman and stuff, stuff that can sort of get overlooked at times. He’s going to be great.
“We’ve also added two assistant coaches, a reserves coach, we think our depth will be a lot better, so we hope our club becomes stronger, not just the seniors becoming stronger.”
In terms of playing personnel, the list remains largely the same. Spearhead Nick Gilbert's move to Mitta United is perhaps the highest-profile loss, and will leave a hole up forward, but the club remains confident it will have suitable replacements for the few players that have departed.
“There are a couple (of players) that have retired, Tim Kennedy, and a couple that are just going to go and explore the world, that sort of stuff, so we’ll miss a couple, but we think we can fill those gaps,” Kidd said.
With the club on the cusp of success, the vibe on the track has naturally been overwhelmingly positive throughout the preseason, and indeed, certainly more so than it has been in previous years, according to long-time Bear Jason Twirdy.
"(Numbers have been) pretty impressive, fair few new faces. We haven’t lost too many, so definitely something to build on,” Twirdy said.
Caulfield is also continuing to make massive developments in its netball program.
The highly-rated Sue Kimber has landed at Koornang Park as the club’s netball head coach, while another huge influx in playing numbers will see the club field six senior teams in 2017.
The Bears launched its netball program in 2015 with just one team, which claimed the Division 3 premiership, before expanding to four sides last year.
Only netball powerhouses Dingley, St Kilda City and Heatherton will field more teams than the Bears in 2017.
All the planets seem to be aligning for the Caulfield, and a drought-breaking senior premiership may finally be delivered to the long-suffering Bears faithful in 2017.