It was a quiet, sombre away dressing room at Bentleigh in Round 18 last year when the realisation that finals, which for most of the season looked a given, were off the Mordialloc table sunk in.
They’re a proud bunch, these Mordi boys, and none prouder than coach Jason Chapple. The lack of play-off action stung Chapple more than any at the Bloodpit, and he immediately vowed that this was not to happen twice.
There have been few significant player losses, co-captain Carey Neville returning to his alma mater St Bedes Mentone being the major departure. This however has been offset by the recruitment of four leading lights from De La Salle (Aaron Kneebone, Ben Humphrey, Ben McMahon and Ben Curry). Last year’s boom recruit Justin Summons also returns from a knee injury that restricted him to just five quarters of football in 2016.
The Bloods have long needed height and size, Key position player Sean Van Velsen believes that this issue has been largely addressed over the summer.
“Where we lacked a bit of height, we’ve got a few bigger boys through the door. We’ve got some inside strength as well,” he said.
Van Velsen has also been impressed by the commitment that he’s seen from the playing group. “I’ve been here for six years and this has been the most people I’ve ever seen on the track. The buy-in has been incredible,” he added.
Vice captain Luke Barnhoorn is similarly enthusiastic, noting that while finishing outside the top five, Mordialloc weren’t that far away last season.
“We were only one game away from finishing third, and having a real shot at trying to win some games in September,” he said.
“We weren’t far off, and we’ve had a real good pre-season. We want to finish top three and go from there.
“We’ve relied a lot on outside run. We’ve been able to maintain that but add some bigger bodies to win the ball and then get it outside”.
Mordialloc’s netballers finished preliminary finalists in Division 2, starting brilliantly in the season’s penultimate game before being run down by St Pauls. They also fielded competitive sides in Divisions 3 and 5.
Senior player Alana Harris is encouraged by a steady influx of new recruits over summer.
“We were really lucky in locking down Emma Houghton as main coach across the three teams,” she said.
“It’s been a good pre-season with lots of numbers on the court, and it’s been really good having so many fresh legs”.
In what looms as a tight, competitive football season, Mordialloc look to have built a list that is capable of going deep into the final weeks. It looks like a year where determination and hunger will be the determining factor amongst a clutch of teams with similar levels of ability, and the Bloods have the motivation to atone for last year’s late season fade out.