The first ever AFL Outer East season is creeping ever closer, and as anticipation builds we’ll be taking a closer look at each and every club in our newly formed home.
Despite having 628 AFL games on their list, it’s the development of youth at Gembrook-Cockatoo which has the Brooker’s hopes up ahead of their ATC Traffic Division Two Campaign.
Gembrook-Cockatoo finished the 2018 season in style winning the clubs first Under 18 premiership when it came from third position on the ladder to win the Yarra Valley Motor Group Under 18 flag last season, defeating Healesville by 35 points.
For incoming coach Brad Coller it is almost a full circle as many of the young players on the list fathers were Coller’s teammate in his time at the club. A time that included the 2000 premiership.
“It is full circle, guys that mentored me when I was 18-19, I’m now coaching their sons. A lot of them are still involved at the club, with one as my assistant coach, they’ve all been very supportive.”
Coller has been super impressed with performance of last season’s under 18’s, stating that the young lads have been leading the way on the training track, with up to four or five of them likely to appear in round one.
“Everyone looks to be in better shape than they were last year, and there are some expectations on them now to step up.”
The Gembrook-Cockatoo youth will have the leadership of Michael Firrito to depend upon, with the ex-Kangaroo stepping up as captain of the club for the 2019 season.
Accompany that with Tarkyn Lockyear and big name recruit Hamish McIntosh and their will be more than enough experience mixed in with the youth.
“He’s brilliant (Firrito), he blended in last year but this year he’s taking on a leading role and he’s absolutely loving it – and so are the boys.”
Coller believes his side will be ready for the challenge that season 2019 looms to be, with his side now equipped with youth, depth, fitness and ‘pace to burn’.
“We’ve got high expectations around this season, but with our added leg speed I think we should be looking at going deep into the finals.”
For fourth year netball coach Mickey U’Ren, expectations are a bit different. The club won just two games in the top two grades last season, despite making the elimination final in C Grade and making the Grand Final in D.
However given the challenges the coaching and operations team faced last season, it’s a pretty admirable effort.
“We were running last season with seven short of a full book,”
“So a lot of our players had to play multiple games which impacted our A and B Grade sides.”
Things are looking up for 2019, with U’Ren confident of getting four full sides on the court and is even more optimistic for 2020 and beyond.
“A lot of players who we could possibly recruit expect payment and we just aren’t able to accommodate that – nor do we want too,”
“We want to promote our local players and build our juniors up to get a more sustainable long term set up for our netball.”
This goal has been the focus of the pre-season at Gembrook-Cockatoo with the coach looking to make sure that all her players are getting involved with the club, developing friendships and enjoying their netball, even if it could impact their immediate on court results.
And she feels that Gembrook-Cockatoo’s charm will aid her in that goal.
“Long term I feel that approach will make it a better club, by having a positive vibe at all times, “
“I think Gembrook has a very real side to it, I know that it really appeals to me so I hope it appeals to everyone else.”
Gembrook will host Kinglake in Round One of the ATC Traffic Control Division Two season.