By Will Hunter
Senior Interleague Head Coach Ben Lockwood announced Dingley premiership captain Tony Lavers as the SFNL’s 2016 Interleague skipper before the representative squad’s first training session at Bentleigh Reserve last night.
The Dingoes stalwart was the standout candidate for the role, and is a popular and respected figure amongst his peers.
The 32-year-old rebounding defender has 14 years of senior football experience behind him and has captained Dingley for five of the last six seasons, including leading the club to their maiden Division 1 Senior premiership last year.
Lavars said he was both surprised and honoured to be elevated to skipper, particularly after missing out on the opportunity to represent the SFNL at Interleague level in 2015.
“It was unexpected, and also very humbling as well considering some of the quality players on the list and some of the quality leaders that are part of that as well,” Lavars revealed last night.
“I was rapt just to be part of the training squad to be honest. I missed out last year, which was disappointing, through injury.
“So that was my goal, just to get back here and to have the captaincy on top (of that) is really exciting.”
Lockwood was effusive in his praise of the veteran playmaker and expects Lavars to have a massive impact on the group come match day.
“He’s really well respected within the League, which is really important I think when you’re appointing an Interleague captain,” Lockwood said.
“He’s a very good talker amongst the group. A lot of the Dingley guys have said he is really good out on the ground and the sides I’ve coached have always said he instructs really well, directs traffic really well.
“(Lavars) is a really strong leader of men, which is really important as well, and so he fits the bill perfectly.
“I think it is really well deserved and the feedback from the players tonight was terrific… I don’t think anybody would have a bad word (to say) about him.”
Lockwood admitted that announcing the appointment of the side’s captain before the first session may be somewhat unorthodox, but stressed it was imperative that the group had player-driven leadership from the outset.
“It’s probably not super traditional,” Lockwood conceded.
“We just thought it was best for the group given that there are so many new guys from outside leagues coming in this year that we have a figure point out on the ground and out on the track from day one that’s not just myself and the other assistant coaches.
(So) we thought we’d nail that one straight in and lock it in early so they’ve got a bit of leadership straight away, and that’s what (Lavars) showed tonight on the track.
“Really, from now on that we’re into training, it’s about the players and their actions. They need a strong leader and Tone’s definitely that.”
Lockwood was also impressed by the effort and intensity brought by the players to the initial training session, which are encouraging signs ahead of the SFNL’s clash with Ellinbank & District FL on May 21.
“It was really pleasing tonight, to be honest,” he said.
“A couple of guys probably surprised tonight with how well they (performed) on the track.
“It was a light skills session, pretty easy, but all in all all 32 blokes on the track bought in and used their voice really well so it was a pleasing start.”
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Inspirational Dingley captain Tony Lavars is honoured to lead the SFNL Interleague team.[/caption]