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.
by Matt Fotia
The Yarra Glen Football Netball Club is hungry for the challenge that lays ahead of it in this season’s ATC Traffic Division Two according to head coaches Leigh Thomson and Alicia Mortley.
Mortley is in her first year as the Yarra Glen head coach, after being contacted about the role via a Facebook message in October. At the time she was on holiday with her fiancé in Hawaii and hadn’t given any thought to such a job. She was doing some assistant coaching in the State League in 2018, and after discussions with numerous people she decided to take the next step coaching wise and jump in the deep end – and she couldn’t be happier with her choice.
“What I love about Yarra Glen is that they’ve welcomed me into the club and they’re such a thoughtful group – they will do absolutely anything for you,”
“It feels like I’ve been here forever.”
In an attempt to improve upon their 2018 season – which saw a D Grade premiership – Mortley has been using her VNL network to recruit and has done so successfully. Yarra Glen will also welcome back some ex-premiership players in 2019. With this added quality the A Grade side will be expected to finish higher than last seasons sixth position, and the lower grades will also benefit via the drip down effect. According to Mortley her sides “will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.”
Personal Trainers by trade, Mortley and her fiancé have taken over the clubs fitness regime, with the Footballers and Netballers training together. Not only is this building the whole clubs fitness base, but it’s also building the connectivity between the two groups.
“You can see that they’re a lot tighter as a group and of course a whole lot fitter even before they step onto the court or field.”
Mortley is targeting finals across the grades for her new and improved netball outfit.
“I want all sides to be in finals, I think that is very achievable for all of our four teams and if we tick that off we can go from there.”
On the football side of things, second year coach Leigh Thomson is excited by the hunger his playing group is showcasing after a disappointing exit from the 2018 finals series.
“It’s a very hungry group, the seniors have been training very well with minimum 30 people on the track all pre-season,”
“We’ve been having three training sessions a week since the Christmas break with each player expected to get to at least two sessions a week – almost everyone is ticking that box at the moment.”
Thomson expects a better start to the season than last year from the River Pigs, citing the boys interrupted pre-season which left them underdone in 2018. The addition of Kilsyth ruck man Nathan McCulloch, who Thomson has branded ‘an absolute jet’ also sees some much needed height added to their list – a key area that Thomson identified over the off-season after his side were exploited by sides boasting tall timber such as Grand Finalists Yarra Junction and Seville.
Yarra Glen have also added a pair of big bodied midfielders in Tim Ekers (East Ringwood) and Billy Gardner (Lilydale) during the off-season to increase their physicality around the ball in the middle. Thomson and his group are also buoyed by the news that Team of the Year wing-man Austin Smith has gained a spot on the Casey Demons VFL List for the 2019 season.
Accompany this with a training focus to move the ball with more speed through the midfield and the River Pigs will have a new feel about them in 2019.
“Billy has come straight into our leadership group and hasn’t missed a beat since he’s come across,”
“Tim is returning from a knee reconstruction, but he’s added a lot of professionalism to our group, and for Austin it’s just great for the league that someone who is playing Division Two footy can still be recognised, it shows others that they don’t have to leave their clubs to make the next level.”
Thomson is anticipating an even competition in Division Two this season with the heavy recruiting that other clubs have also pulled off – most notably Kinglake and Powelltown. But he feels in the long-term Yarra Glen are well placed for success.
“We’ve got a young list – so if we are able to be successful this year we will be in a great position to build,”
“I know the boys are hungry for the challenge.”
Yarra Glen travel to Thornton Eildon in Round One of the ATC Traffic Division Two Season.