Oaks Aim to Go One Better in 2017
Like Mordialloc the previous year, there would be not premiership hangover for Oakleigh District in 2016.
Their 2015 Division 2 flag was 52 long years in the making, so they could be forgiven for resting on their laurels and basking in their momentous achievement. However, that wasn’t the case, as the Oaks wasted no time in proving to their doubters that they belonged in the SFNL’s top flight.
Not only did they make finals, like the Bloods did, but looked every bit the premiership contender in their first season back in Division 1. Unfortunately, their glorious run ended in the penultimate game of the year, beaten comfortably by Bentleigh in the Preliminary Final after injuries to key players derailed their campaign.
Despite the disappointment of that day lingering, captain Brody Hodic was bullish about his team’s prospects of improvement this year.
“Our aim is obviously to go one better this year. We’ve brought in a bit more than we’ve lost over the off-season, which is always a positive,” Hodic said.
“And blooding a lot of the Under 19s last year, they also made a prelim final, so I think we have a dozen of them coming through to push the seniors and reserves and there’ll be three or four who are probably walk-up starters for Round 1 for the senior team.
“So we’re in a good spot for the upcoming season.”
It’s often said that the second season in the higher grade is tougher than the first, as Mordialloc discovered last year. Newly promoted teams can often fly under the radar and catch their opponents unawares, but can get found out the following season as opposition coaches cotton on to their game plans.
But while Hodic conceded that the other clubs may have figured out their secrets, the Oaks themselves will be much better prepared for the rigours of Division 1 football than they were last year, particularly with a number of new recruits helping strengthen their list in certain areas.
“Playing last year in the first season up in Division 1, it’s a bit different from Division 2, so in saying that, the teams might have worked us out,” he conceded.
"(But) it goes the other way as well, I think we’re more comfortable with the tempo, and we’ll adjust our game plan accordingly.
“We’ve picked up a few (player) from the Eastern league, which is that more free flowing, fast-paced footy, (and we'll) utilise their skills so that should help our outside game.
“And we picked up a few strong bodies, which we probably lacked late in the finals with a few injuries to key players, so our midfield will be a strong brigade I would have thought.”
While Oakleigh have lost several of its stars, including ruckman Brent Crawley, livewire forward Khaled Kandakji and volatile midfielder Jake Mullen, among others, the club is confident they will be able to cover those losses and make a real tilt at a maiden Division 1 premiership.