By Andrew Paloczi
Lyndhurst football club has previously existed as a junior entity, so excitement is building as the first bounce approaches for the club's debut at senior level.
Co-captain, Jake Ward is thriving on the challenge of helping bring players to the club and is impressed with the momentum that is already building.
“It's exciting, seeing all these new faces from different aspects of footy is great,” Ward said.
He is impressed with the numbers turning up and the talent on display at training and in a couple of practice matches.
These matches have been against Templestowe and South Mornington and Lyndhurst, nicknamed Lightning, has won one of those. Ward was impressed with the team’s attack on the footy.
He is undoubtedly a factor in the young team adopting a tough and competitive approach, being renowned as a player who loves putting himself on the line for his side’s benefit.
Ward came to Lightning from Dandenong to follow best mate, Jamie Gaspero who will coach Lyndhurst’s reserves.
“We both were looking for a fresh start and there is nothing better than helping a new club get off the ground,” said Ward.
But for all his leadership attributes, it is a smart move for the club to share the load in its first season and Ward is effusive in his praise for fellow skipper Brad Ferri, describing him as “a ripping bloke”, and noting his hard work on the training track and in matches.
A key to success in local footy is a coach who can create a sense of belonging and motivate players.
Inaugural Lightning senior coach, Paddy Cooke makes everyone feel part of the club according to Ward.
“Everyone is equal which is getting the best out of blokes on the training track,” he said.
Ward also describes Cooke as having “a wealth of knowledge”, which is sure to be called on as he steers the team through its early days in the SFNL.
Cooke has already demonstrated that he doesn't mind having a light-hearted dig at his players, with his recent comment to the SFNL media officer that Ward will do plenty of yapping and motivating, but it remains to be seen if he gets a kick.
True to character Ward sees the positives.
“The fact my coach thinks and sees that I can motivate my teammates is a compliment. Getting a kick is a bonus.”
Rest assured, if he can't get a kick himself he will be burrowing in to win one for a teammate.
With strong leadership on and off the field and enthusiastic youngsters there is a sense Lyndhurst will quickly earn respect and be competitive, even if it doesn't win many matches in its first season.
Cooke’s greatest focus initially is ensuring the club is viable in the long term at senior level, but he will have a committed side from the first bounce of the season.
With a home clash against Hallam on 9 April, the team in bright orange doesn't have long to wait.
For new Hallam senior coach, Scott Slater, there is a feeling of coming home, after playing his junior football for Hallam where he was part of an Under 16s premiership.
Slater is delighted with the pre-season turnout, mentioning that over 100 players have attended.
He says there has been considerable change since last season, with a number of new players arriving at the Hawks and some talented Under 19s stepping up.
Slater expects Hallam’s midfield to be strengthened by Manny Peresso, Daniel Chin and Phil Ward.
Peresso will be kept busy as he is also an assistant coach and a co-captain. The other skipper is Stephen Chin.
Josh Furborough has moved from Dandenong and the coach indicated that his height will be valuable for the Hawks.
It is expected that a number of the Under 19s will experience action in the seniors this season.
“Our coaching philosophy from day one has been about development within our younger players and educating the whole squad on structures and game plans,” Slater said.
There is a real focus on “long term sustainable improvement” and not just “buying short term success”.
Slater is confident of improvement from the Hawks this season, but is realistic in acknowledging there is a need to be patient and to realise that it may take some time to achieve the kind of improvement the team is striving for.
But he is brimming with enthusiasm as he looks forward to the first bounce.
“With a great buzz internally at the Hallam Hawks at the moment we are looking forward to the year and wish all SFNL clubs the best for season 2016,” he said. But no doubt he is hoping to spoil the party for a few of those other clubs during the season.
The Hawks have an exciting start, taking on new senior team Lyndhurst in an away game that is sure to attract plenty of attention. The round 1 clash takes place on 9 April at Marriott Waters Reserve.
Endeavour Hills senior coach, Steve Muscat is confident the club has recruited well to improve on an encouraging 2015 season in which his team made progress, but narrowly missed finals action.
He also believes that if the midfield and ruck division "can stay steady" this will be another important ingredient for success this season and has brought in players who can provide midfield drive, whilst also offering other attributes.
Young recruits Shaun Richards and Jayke Villot have the flexibility to play up forward or in the midfield according to Muscat, and he notes they both "have a hunger for the contest".
Jack Gibb has arrived at the club from Tasmania where he has played state league footy with North Hobart. Most recently he played in the Old Scholars Football Association. His arrival was announced on the Endeavour Hills' website suggesting he will be a significant addition for 2016.
He is described as a utility and midfielder who will provide a lot of class and professionalism, both on the field and in his role as a senior assistant coach.
Muscat enthuses about what Gibb has brought to the club.
"He will give us some hardness around the contest and has been a welcome addition to the coaching ranks."
Matthew Peake will continue as captain in 2016, with the support of new vice-captain Byron Hoe.
It is exciting to see the way that Endeavour Hills has bounced back in recent seasons after a 2013 season in which the club did not win a single game.
2014 offered some encouragement as the Falcons got the points on four occasions, and last season represented a big stride forward. The side managed 11 wins, finishing sixth and missing the finals by just a game and percentage.
There is every reason to believe that this momentum will continue, given the hard work that has gone into improving the list and the Falcons are likely to play finals this year.
Endeavour Hills gets a chance to demonstrate what progress has been made when the team travels to Essex Heights Reserve on 9 April for round 1 to take on Ashwood, which squeezed into the five last season.
CARRUM PATTERSON LAKES
Carrum Patterson Lakes’ new senior coach, Andrew Haley is a familiar face at Roy Dore Reserve, returning to the club where he played in 2013.
His football journey since then has been an unconventional one, playing for the Muscat Magpies during a two-year stint as a teacher in Oman in the Middle East.
Haley recalls travelling 500 kilometres each way to take the field for the Magpies in a match against Abu Dhabi, leaving home at five in the morning and getting back about 22 hours later.
Hearing this story makes it clear that Haley loves his football and will bring plenty of passion to CPL, along with a willingness to take on challenges.
His teaching background is another attribute that won’t go astray at the footy club.
Haley noted there is a trend for AFL clubs to have coaches with a background in education, and this is now also applicable to local competitions.
“So many coaches and assistant coaches are teachers. Having structures in place that are clearly articulated around the football club is something we also see in schools. From a coaching point of view, being able to give clear instructions, timely feedback, being able to develop our footballers, the strategies we use in the classroom with students also work in football training.”
Haley had a goal to be a senior coach and had just returned from Oman when he saw the coaching position at CPL advertised.
There are still plenty of players on the list from his previous period at the club, including Nick Gage, Ben Guy, Warren Judd and Dylan Cott.
The new coach believes there is a great environment at the club and players’ partners and family are always welcome. This undoubtedly explains why players stick around.
Haley sees a big positive in his existing relationship with a number of his players.
“It is also beneficial from a coaching point of view to have so many players on the list that I played with back in 2013 because when I talk about the brand of football that we want to play this year the players know that is how I played the game and that I am not expecting something out of them that I would not have been willing to do myself.”
Haley has left nothing to chance in terms of preparing his players for the season ahead. He explained that the emphasis in the pre-season has been on taking a scientific approach to training.
Sports scientist Sophie Brennan has joined the club as a fitness coach. Another addition is strength and conditioning coach Kevin Hepburn.
These two developed a pre-season training program which Haley believes was tough, but will have the players ready come round 1.
He looks forward to working with these fitness experts during the season, along with his assistant coaches, Cain Padman and Colin Brennan.
The Lions will have the guidance of a leadership group of six players this season. These are Paul Mauracher, Matt Jackson, David Brennan, Sam Watterson, Alex Hollingsworth and Chris Hatzis.
“These six players will be directly involved with a range of aspects at our football club including overseeing components of training, mentoring our younger players, ensuring we stick to our team rules and other roles on and off the field,” Haley said.
The captain and vice captain will be announced at the club’s season launch just before the first round.
After playing in the 2014 grand final, CPL was unable to progress beyond last season’s elimination final.
It is apparent there has been extensive planning and plenty of hard work since last season that should give the Lions a strong chance to feature amongst the premiership contenders in 2016.
CPL kicks off its season at Mayfield Park on 9 April when it clashes with Mount Waverley.