By Matt Fotia
It took them a little while to figure out the who, where, when, what and how but Olinda Ferny Creek have got their heads around the AFL Outer East concept and are ready to take it on in 2020.
Olinda’s footballers were caught well and truly on the hop in the first edition of the AFL Outer East Premier Division and found themselves languishing near the bottom of the table for the first half a dozen rounds of the year.
But some soul searching and a returning crew of senior footballers saw them show some real fight in the second half of the season to finish in seventh, with some nice scalps along the way.
The Bloods won’t be making the same mistake twice however with Senior Coach Brendan Donovan putting the building blocks in place for an improvement in 2020.
“We’re certainly better than we were last year,”
“We’ve only really had a couple of players put in clearances to leave and we’ve been able to get 15-18 players in across all three of our senior sides (18’s, reserves, Seniors) and I think 10-12 of those guys will push senior football,”
“That’s what we needed – last year was our depth was just not good enough.”
The Bloods aren’t just improving their depth in 2020, they’re also looking to evolve their game style with a plan to take notice of and replicate what the top clubs are doing.
“We know we have to emulate what the top three or four sides are doing and our pre-season has been based on doing that,”
“We experimented a lot in the backend of last year, some things didn’t work, but we were very happy with the things that did work and we’re going to keep going down that path,”
“This year is the first year that I’ve been here where we haven’t really had any change, so it’s all about perfecting the things that we did get right last year, but there are some things, like the way we cover the ground, that we need to get better at,”
“Getting a bit of leg speed in will help fix that.”
Two key ins for Olinda Ferny Creek are the Rosier boys, Pat and Matt, who return home from South Croydon (EFNL) and Eley Park (VAFA) respectively. Both players bring experience and some of the missing ingredients that Donovan craves.
“Patty (Rosier) was recognised at South Croydon for his defensive game up forward and our pitch to him was that we could let him off the leash a little bit, because we certainly need a few more tricks in our forward line, but I’d like to think he’ll go through the midfield a little bit more, but with that ability to roll forward and kick a few goals,”
“Matt Rosier is the one that really excites me, we need that outside run,”
“We think we sort of unpicked the lock in that back end of last year and Matt Rosier with his outside aggressiveness will compliment that pretty well.”
“Both guys are really quiet so people listen when they talk at training, you can see a few boys ears prick up when they do mention something on the track.”
Listening and learning will be big priorities for Donovan and his coaching staff despite the influx of players. The club is looking to build off its strong off-field culture and make sure that all facets are moving in the one direction, starting with some senior influence amongst the junior coaching panel.
“I don’t think there would be many, or any, ex Olinda players not playing at the club, you know nearly everyone who has come through the club is playing at the club, which is a real credit to everyone here,”
“We’re certainly looking at this year as one where we teach the kids and get in there early, the Under 18’s will be much stronger, they’re training exceptionally”
“We’ve put a coaching template in where we have Josh Wallis and Mitch Bonuda in the Under 16’s and we’re going back into our Under 14s to teach them so that when they get to Under 18 or Senior level they’re already well across the processes, because it’s so foreign whats occurred to our footy and we’ve embraced it,”
“For clubs to be able to plan there way through, playing two to three years of consistent premier league football really exposes your kids to be the best they can and I think the future is really bright at Olinda.”
On the other side of the Olinda Ferny Creek coaching coin is Tim Smith, who’s A Grade Netball side stormed to the Premier Division flag in 2019, with an unblemished record.
The Bloods have been one of, if not the best, netball side in the past decade and the biggest challenge Smith faces is making sure that his players stay hungry for more success.
“We’ve got to do different, I’ve got to come up with strategies to engage the girls through different learning streams, structures, some input from new athletes and opportunities for young ones to acquire,”
“It’s got to be fresh.”
The Bloods have the chance to win five premierships in six seasons this year, eclipsing the great Mount Evelyn side of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Whilst Smith admits there might be a couple of the older players who may be more aware of the achievement than others, he is adamant that the squad are taking things as they come.
And he knows the rest of the competition will be coming hard.
“We try not to get too ahead of ourselves, obviously it’s in the background for some of the older girls and what not and it was very nice to see that we were ranked number one in the last ten years, but the girls are very much focus forwards – the most important thing is to win enough games to get into finals and then have a crack,”
“The opposition were an unknown last year, but now they know what the mark is I’m sure they haven’t been sitting back thinking we’re going to turn up and do the same, so they’ll be coming at us, so for us to stand still and not improve would be pretty foolish.”
Like his counterpart Donovan, Smith is also out to make sure that this successful period of Olinda Ferny Creek netball continues on for as long as possible, with innovative coaching, playing opportunities and an engaging environment.
“The exciting part for us is that four of our under 17’s will progress into the seniors this season and a couple of them look like the new Krista Tomlinson’s,”
“They’re in VNL development teams and so on and we value them as important as some of our A grade stars,”
“We want to keep them happy, enjoying their netball and provide them with the best coaching we possibly can and I think we are very lucky in that department with some of the personnel we have around the place.”