By Matt Fotia
The 2020 AFL Outer East season is on the horizon, so lets leave the 2019 season in the rearview and look forward to what the new year, and new decade has to offer – all thanks to Bendigo Bank and Yarra Valley Water.
Kinglake are primed for success in 2020 across both sectors of the club according to Andrew Fairchild and Latoya Wards, after a strong 2019 season which saw both their Senior Football and A Grade Netball finish inside the top three of the AFL Outer East Division Two.
For Fairchild, who was in his first year as a Senior Coach after a storied career amongst the Northern Football Netball League, 2019 was a positive one as his new look Kinglake side dominated the early stages of the season before trailing off to finish third on the ladder and disappointingly exiting the Finals Series in straight sets.
“At the start of the year (2019), we would’ve taken it (making the Semi Final) but as the season went on, we probably should’ve been better than a straight sets finish.”
Fairchild and his crew sat down to re-assess their season and their goals for the next few years and came to the conclusion that they’ve got what it takes.
“We decided we’ve got all the right tools in terms of talent and so on, so it’s all about putting in the hard work and that’s being done right now,”
“Personally I probably got a few things wrong as a first year coach and I’ve assessed that as well, but we’re all ready for a big year.”
However whilst focus is rightfully set firmly on improving in 2020, the Lakers are making sure perspective is big on the agenda in the months leading into the season, with a heavy dosage of charitable performances over the summer months.
The Football Club took on the Cricket Club to raise money for bushfire affected communities in a good spirited T20, they have a number of players (both football and netball) participating in the second annual Valley Vicious Rett Syndrome Awareness Game/s and will be kicking off their pre-season practice matches with a trip up to Buchan, who were left with little to show for their town after this summers unprecedented natural disaster.
With Bushfires being something close to the conscience of the Kinglake community, it was a no brainer to help out where they could.
“Bushfires are something that is pretty close to the heart of the Kinglake community, and after the help that was received in 2009, we saw it as an opportunity to give back,”
“So we’ll head up there with food, drink and people to play a game of football and netball – the boys have been awesome in their response as well, we’ve got 30 odd blokes that want to play, so we’re stoked with the response.”
Amongst those 30 will be a sprinkling of new talent for the Lakers, who have once again leaned upon Fairchild’s relationships with those in the Northern Football Netball League in their off season recruiting with Fairchild’s close friend and new assistant coach Leigh Gilbert leading an impressive list of incoming transfers.
The big bodied midfielder will be joined by Whittlesea pair Matthew Langford and Scott McAuliffe, marking forward Chris Horman will have his brother Nick at his feet this season as he crosses from Thomastown and Glenn Robertson will join the Lakers after a year off playing.
Youth will also be on the agenda in 2020, with Kinglake looking more than likely to field an Under 18 side for the first time in awhile and the coach expects a couple of them to push for spots in the senior side as well.
“We’ve identified that you need youth pushing the older blokes and we’ve had a core of 10-12 of those youngsters training with us every night this pre-season,”
“They’ve developed a lot in the past three to four months doing everything the senior players are doing, and a couple might surprise during the year.”
The focus on sustainability plays into Fairchild’s vision of long term success for the Lakers that he set out to achieve last season.
“To be honest we are probably a little bit ahead of where I thought we’d be, but you never know what can happen and we are still all about the long term, it’s all about building that culture,”
“If you build a good culture, success will follow.”
2019 was an improvement on 2018 according to Kinglake A Grade Coach Latoya Wards, despite the Lakers exiting the season at the Preliminary Final stage, going down to Seville on a miserable day out at Monbulk.
But with improvement across the whole club, Wards is doubling down on her assessment that 2019 was still a step in the right direction for the girls in yellow and green and is adamant that 2020 will continue along that trend.
“I’d say 2019 was even better (then 2018) especially on a whole club level, with the lower grades performing much better than the year before,”
“We’ve just finished our trials for 2020 and we’ve got a lot of new faces so I think that we will continue to improve.”
With Seville heading up to Division One, Kinglake will be expected to be the main challengers for Yea’s netball throne, and whilst that sits firmly within her sights, Wards is expecting Warburton Millgrove to be around the mark as well.
“I reckon Warburton Millgrove will challenge, their experience in Division One will be priceless, and they’ll fit right into the spot that Seville left behind,”
“Personally, we’re looking for more success, we expect all four grades to make finals this year as we’re building each grade so that there is pressure on those at the next level.”