Being the hunted rather than the hunters was a feeling that had become somewhat alien to Beazley Reserve, but their 2015 relegation from Division 1 imposed this upon the Demons.
Any doubt about the challenge presented by Division 2 was quickly erased in Round 1, as a visit to the Bears’ cave saw a six-goal half time deficit. Chelsea Heights recovered their composure and almost pulled off an unlikely victory that day.
Their belief grew the further the season progressed, and a creditable second place behind undefeated juggernaut Port Colts ensued, but their Round 1 vanquishers again came back to haunt the Dees as they were bundled out of the competition on preliminary final day by a desperate Caulfield unit.
Coach Brad Canavan therefore once more saddles up a playing group that knows it is one of the key fancies to be reinstalled into the top echelon. He has retained the bulk of the 2016 squad and several recruits have arriving at Beazley to further the premiership push, headed by James Robertson and Kade Murphy, fresh from Division 1 grand finals at Bentleigh. Veteran forward Robertson has a live-wire up forward for most of Bentleigh's senior finals campaign last year, while Murphy was awarded the 2016 Division 1 Reserve MVP after an outstanding season.
Make no mistake; Chelsea Heights is a club that means business in 2017.
It’s a confident playing group that has been attacking the preseason and given the work ethic that Canavan preaches, it will be a fit one as well.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve started to slowly get more and more (numbers on the track), and that’s what we want going forward. You feel a bit better about the amount of running the coach has been making us do – there’s more people suffering,” was the assessment from star rover and 2016 Bennett Medallist Jordan Peryman.
Skipper Phil Matheson is a veteran of several preseasons at Chelsea Heights, and he too can see the difference this year after a solid preseason.
“They’ve been training us hard!” he remarked. “We’re a lot fitter than this time last year!”
The netball section of the Chelsea Heights club also starts 2017 looking to build upon the foundations created in the previous year. After a slow start, the Heighters were the big improvers in Division 2, rattling home in the second half of the year with several good wins over more fancied opponents.
Elise Jagintavicius can see continued improvement. “We’ve got a lot of new girls coming in – a bit of a fresh start. We hope to go a bit further than last season."
Whilst still finalising player numbers, the intention is still to carry two teams as was done in 2016.
Newly-installed co-President Kellie Peryman, the mother of Jordan, is also bullish about the off-field side of the club.
“We have a brand new committee – a brand new fresh start,” she said.
“We’re looking to really ramp things up off field to translate to on-field (success). We’ve got players on the committee; we’ve got players reps on the committee. Everyone’s keen for a really good year.”
Chelsea Heights is a stable, powerful club that has its act together, both on and off field. It would be a surprise not to see them active in the final weeks of both the football and netball seasons.