By Matt Fotia
After languishing at the foot of two respective Division One ladders, Warburton Millgrove have found a new set of opponents ahead of the 2020 season and both Brendan Murphy and Courtney Lever are excited about the prospect.
After a long first year at the helm where his side won just two games, Warburton Millgrove senior coach Brendan Murphy is positive about his sides chances heading into its first Division Two campaign, following some good pre-season performances and a handful of recruits.
The Burras have signed Woori Yallock young gun Christian Cameron and a former Tiger premiership star Joel Coombs along with promising Lilydale Falcon utility Trent Elliot. Murphy says that the winning culture and attitude that the trio have bought to the table has helped push his message across.
“It’s (pre-season training) very good, the numbers are great and everything is pretty positive,”
“They’ve (Christian, Coombs, Elliot) been leading the way with their skills, their on field methods, communication and approach, demonstrating to our boys what that looks like in a winning environment,”
“It’s great having that experience for most of our boys, where they can come and reiterate some of those things that I’ve been preaching about and so on because these guys have that naturally and it helps back up my teachings.”
The coach played very little part in the club’s mini recruiting splurge prior to Christmas, having stated early on in his tenure that he wouldn’t deal with local footballing mercenaries.
“One of my things I said to the club when I first came across was that I don’t want to be on the phone all pre-season long talking to blokes who aren’t even remotely interested in coming out, I’ll talk to the player once they want to come out to training – I can’t stand talking to people who are just chasing money,”
“But the recruiting team have done a fantastic job, I’m stoked with what they’ve done because it’s built a bit more excitement.”
The excitement doesn’t stop with the fresh meat in the Burras nest. After the dust had settled post the Christmas break, Murphy was pleased to see a young core of players who would make up his senior side, something he’s wanted all along.
Even more pleasing is the fact some of the older players are jumping on board with the idea, even if it’s at their own demise.
“We’re looking to go towards our kids even more following some player exits, so there’ll be a big focus on the youth and the guys are excited by that, even the guys on our list who are on the wrong side of that youth policy, because they understand that the role that they play as mentors to those kids is huge,”
“Which as a coach is great, because I can’t do it on my own, all I can do is say where I think the future is – its with our kids – and then I have to influence everyone that it’s the right way to go and get them on board,”
“So to have people like Liam Barnard and co getting around the idea is great, it’s a complete club buy in.”
The ability to expand his teachings also bring some joy to Murphy’s coaching life after the Burras were left to defend grimly for most of the 2019 season. Whilst he doesn’t believe his side should be in any way favourites for the premiership, nor even thinking about it, he is looking forward to playing some more attacking football.
“My expectation is that it’s still going to be tough in Division Two, I’m not thinking anything other than that we’ve got our work cut out for us,”
“We need to come down into the division with the right attitude, because in all honesty I think we are starting from the bottom and working our way up,”
“We have the chance to build on what we did last year, which was very defensive because it had to be and in 2020 I would like to work on some more attack to compliment the defence we built last season and see where we go,”
“I’m not putting expectation on my guys or on myself, I’m coaching to improve and the club seem to be happy with that, so that’s the way I’m going to keep going about it.”
Following a fairly strong first season at the club, new A Grade Coach Courtney Lever is ready to take Division Two by storm.
The Burras finished the 2019 season in form to finish inside the final five and won through to the Semi Finals with a impressive win over Pakenham Lions in the Elimination Final, before going down to eventual runners up Monbulk in a bitterly cold encounter at Olinda Ferny Creek, where the elements played a massive part according to their new coach.
“We were unlucky with the weather in that last game in the finals, because I think if it wasn’t blowing a gale with hail and so on, the game would’ve been a lot different,”
“I still think we did really well, but in different conditions and circumstances we would’ve given them a much better run for their money then we did.”
Lever was originally lined up to coach the side in 2019 by the Burras hierarchy , but decided against it, choosing to focus on her own game, something she believes everyone should do when entering a new club.
“When they approached me last season, they tried to get me to coach then and I said no because it was my first year and I find going straight into a club that it’s important to work on yourself and my game to begin with and then I took up a role as an assistant,”
“But awhile in I jumped on board and said going forward I would look at doing the coaching role and pre-season has been really good,”
“I’ve been really impressed with numbers, with you know over 35 at training, so they’re the best that I’ve ever seen and there’s been good feedback too.”
With almost all of the Burras top end talent having been locked in to go around again in 2020, along with some handy inclusions, Lever is confident that her evenly balanced side will be in contention for the Division Two flag.
“Heading forward into the season, obviously we are down a division, but I think the good thing for us is that we’ve kept our strength, you know our whole squad from last year has recommitted and potentially a few extras who will strengthen our depth, so I’m hoping that we’ll be around the mark,”
“We work together really well – I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a team like this where everyone has just worked so well with each other – and the good thing is that we don’t rely on any one player, right across the board everyone has their role giving us strength right through the court.”
“We’re hoping to be there at the end – if we play the way we know we can play, I don’t see why we can’t be right around the mark,”
“We don’t let anyone intimidate us, we stand strong and just play our game.”