Dominant Dingoes on the Cusp of Immortality
By Hugh Maclean
A grand final appearance in 2014 marked just the beginning of an era of dominance from the boys from Dingley Village. The crushing disappointment of defeat in that year’s decider was partially assuaged by a dominant victory over Mordialloc in 2015, and parlayed into a demolition of Bentleigh on the last day of the 2016 season.
That day proved to be the swansong of a 12-year career for much loved and respected captain Tony Lavars. One of the defining moments of the season was his goal deep in the last quarter, and the lifting of the premiership cup provided a fitting pinnacle to his outstanding body of work. But as one story ends, so another one begins, and now Travis La Rocca and the returning Jackson Peet become co-captains over the next stage of the journey.
Coach Shane Morwood sees many positives in 2017’s regeneration.
“Tony’s been not only a great leader but a great person for a lot longer than I’ve been there. That leadership’s got to be developed with our younger leaders now,” Morwood said.
“(Lavars) will be missed on his leadership and also the person that he is, but it’s an exciting transition taking on Travis and Jackson. They’ll lead us to the next generation of Dingley footballers.”
Lavars is not the only experienced player to leave the Den after the 2016 success. Club stalwart and former captain Lee Wonnacott has also called time on his playing career, and premiership players Tom Wright, Steve Gaertner and Stuart Cleeve have also exited. Six other experienced reserves players complete the exodus by trying their hands at Springvale Districts.
Previous Kingsley Ellis Medal winner Lucas Walmsley follows Peet back to the club after two seasons in the VFL, and Dingley will reward the efforts of players from their successful Under 17 and Under 19 sides, giving them the opportunity to develop for the future.
Whilst commenting that numbers on the track could have been better early in the preseason, Morwood noted that this is not cause for concern as attendance can be mixed with so much youth coming through.
“We’ve put everything in place in our training in preseason, and our set-ups, and refining a few things. Hopefully a few players coming back into the club will make a little bit of difference and take us to a new level, we hope. We’ll see how we go as the season unfolds,” Morwood said.
Netball is, of course, also a very big part of this club. Having won three premierships in a row between 2013 and 2015, Dingley tasted defeat in the decider last year courtesy of a white-hot Heatherton.
They take to the court in 2017 with largely the same group of players, and a focus on concentrating what they have done best in winning those three flags. They will be without inspirational leader Alicia Wise for much of the first half of the season, but have offset that loss by recruiting Chloe Sinclair, a defender with VNL experience.
They also have a change of coach, with Adrian Ballantyne succeeding Penny Byers-Timms, who, whilst still playing, has passed on the clipboard to pursue a job opportunity. The depth within the club is still very strong, which will keep the top division players on their toes.
Dingley looks to a new season with plenty of changes afoot, but one thing that doesn’t alter is that this remains one of the most powerful clubs in the SFNL. One would have to be fairly foolish not to expect them to be playing deep into the finals in both sporting disciplines.