By Matt Fotia
Despite finishing the year on top of the pops, Narre Warren are still growing as a club in 2020 with two young coaches and plenty of young stars to boot.
Incoming Narre Warren coach Shane Dwyer won’t be an unfamiliar face for the playing group. He’s been involved at the club for the best part of 15 years as a senior assistant, under’s coach and everything in between.
In 2019 he’d stepped back to assist the Under 18 coaching staff. When Matt Shinners informed him he’d be stepping away at the end of the year it made plenty of sense for Dwyer to apply, considering his lengthy apprenticeship and relationship with the club.
“They’re a good group and I’ve had a fair bit to do with a lot of them so it made sense to apply for the job once Matt decided he was going to give it up,”
“They’re all good boys and hopefully we go as well as we did last year.”
Dwyer was announced late in 2019, in the aftermath of the Magpies hard fought Grand Final win. But there was no time to celebrate his promotion, it was straight to work as he sought to keep the 2019 squad together, with progressing the youth his main goal.
“Once I was told I had the job, I was worried about retaining the players we had after a strong year,”
“Nick (Battle) coming in is really really good and we’ve pretty much retained our Grand Final list with the exception of Michael Collins who’s retired and with adding Nick it bring some more pace and quality to our game,”
“But the biggest thing for us is to keep developing the young blokes that are coming through, the ones that I’ve had a bit to do with, because the experienced players are pretty well versed in what we’re doing outside of a few new tweaks,”
“It’s about bringing these young blokes through and helping them become better players – thats the basket we are putting most of our eggs into because it’s a very stable list,”
“If they get better, we’ll get better.”
The youth are driving the standards up at training for the Magpies, but its some wiser heads that are still leading the way in 2020. Runner Up in the League Best and Fairest Bradley Scalzo continues to push himself, as does Grand Final Day Best on Ground Medal Winner Nathan Foote.
But Dwyer is most pleased with young wingman Tom Miller who is looking likely to back up his promising 2019 with an even better 2020. Dwyer knows this improvement will be needed if they’re to defend their crown.
“The pre-season has been pretty solid – really well attended as well – the Foote’s and Scalzo’s are leading the way on the track – they always train well – and young Tommy Miller has had a big pre-season which is good, following on from a good year last year in somewhat of a break out year for him.”
“The competition will be a lot more even this year, Cranbourne have picked up a lot of their old crew back with the big fella back at full forward so they’ll be improved, Berwick are Berwick you know how good they are and the teams in the Yarra Valley look like they’re bolstering their lists,”
“But as I said our groups been going really well, the numbers have been good at training, no one is easing into it following the flag, so it’s going well at this stage.”
Michelle Mashado’s first year coaching Narre Warren’s A Grade side was an interesting one. The Magpies finished inside the five, but were knocked out by Woori Yallock in a hotly contested Elimination Final.
Nevertheless, Mashado has taken it all in her stride and can’t wait for 2020.
“It had it’s moments, but we are all at a learning curve I suppose, but for me last season as the first year in A Grade coaching I thought it was a pretty good season all in all,”
“I’d known the kids for a while, I probably coached all of them when they were coming through the juniors, but it was still a big step up to coach A Grade,”
“But in all honesty it was good and I can’t wait for this year.”
The Magpies found the new competition tough to get used to at first with depth across the whole division as well as a lack on intel on their opponents combining to make things difficult. But with these learnings taken on board and a heavy focus on their fitness this pre-season, a new look Narre Warren could be on the horizon.
“The competition is tougher in some parts, you know not knowing the personnel of who you’re playing with a massive number of ins and outs which makes planning hard, but we are learning all the time,”
“The main focus for the girls at the moment is fitness, we’re really pushing the girls on the track with heaps and heaps of running – we need to build up our running to help run out those hour long games which is a really important part of netball – so our fitness has been the main focus.”
The fitness focus is all part of the plan for the Magpies to reach their yearly target – finals.
However Mashado knows that there is a bigger picture, with the head coach keeping one eye on 2020 and one eye on the future of this ever evolving club.
“We’ve had some players return to the club and we haven’t really set our teams out yet which means we haven’t been able to put down some proper goals and alike, but for A Grade you always want to get into the finals, thats our main aim,”
“But in saying that we’re a young club that is growing, so we’ll wait and see.”