By Matt Fotia
Gembrook-Cockatoo will enter 2020 the same way they entered 2019 – unsure of what faces them.
And they’ll take it on the same way – with youthful exuberance.
The Brookers had a lot of the hype heading into 2019 following the recruitment of yet another AFL retiree in Hamish McIntosh.
Add in the fact that their drought breaking Under 18 premiership side would be making the step up into senior ranks and everything seemed set up for the Brookers to return to their former glory.
But as coach Brad Coller will tell you, Division Two wasn’t made up of easy beats.
So whilst their might be disappointment in their failure to earn promotion the ‘old fashioned way’ the Brookers senior man expects them to compete in their new home.
“There’s a fair bit of unknown when it comes to how we’re going to go considering we jumped a division, but we’re optimistic that we’re going to be competitive, which is the main thing”
“We’ve got plenty of talent and to be honest the top four or five out of Division Two last season were very handy and from the few games I saw of Division One they would have been very competitive,”
“We’ve picked up a couple of handy players and maintained majority of our list so we hope that we’d have more balance and continuity then we did last year.”
The handy players that Coller speaks of include Belgrave trio Jake Delphine, Ricky Delphine and Aaron Johns as well as Greensborough’s Damien Beames and Cora Lynn’s Brayden Weller.
Both their maturity and foot skills will be welcome additions for the Brookers.
“Johnsy made the Division One Team of the Year last year so he’s going to be very handy for our group and Brayden Weller comes across from Cora Lynn and they’ve fixed up a couple of needs we had around skill level by foot, plus some more maturity should mean some more consistency in our performances.”
But a handful of experienced players won’t transform the Brookers into a well oiled and thoughtful unit overnight.
He and his coaching staff still have plenty of work to do if they’re to add some more consistency to their output in 2020.
“That’s the biggest question isn’t it (maturity), we rely on them (the kids) so much you know, only four blokes were over 30 last year and majority were under 21 and that brings inconsistency and there are probably going to be times where we are inconsistent again,”
“Some of the boys could have second year blues, they might all step up, but all of these factors flow into that unknown surrounding us this year and how we’ll progress.”
Despite all of the worries around the battle readiness of his senior group, Coller is still giddy at the way the club is pooling young talent, with yet another strong crop of Under 18’s forming in 2020 via a mixture of the club’s 2019 Under 16’s and some more inclusions from the South East.
“I don’t think we’ve had these sort of numbers in the Gembrook Under 18s ever,”
“I remember going through the Under 18s and we made a Grand Final with only 19 blokes on our list, these blokes have got 26 on the track,”
“It gives the coaches plenty to work with and considering the kids coming up from the 16s were quality as it was, to add some more talent from down the line is awesome,”
“They take the mickey out of each other, but they also respect each other and they’re all pumped and are gelling really well,”
“It’s exciting times for the 18s and I’m looking forward to watching them go about it.”
Shanae Ingram has been a target of Gembrook-Cockatoo’s for awhile now and finally, in 2020, the time was right for the well versed coach to take the reins.
And so far, so good.
“I’ve been in touch with the club via Mickey (last year’s coach) and Penne, who I’ve known for years and it’s not the first time the question had been asked, but this time around it was a good fit,”
“We’ve had a really good pre-season with really good numbers and all the girls are great people which is obviously important.”
Ingram isn’t new to any part of the coaching caper.
She’s been involved at Koo Wee Rup in the Football Netball system and has more than 10 years experience ranging from A Grade to Netters.
So it should be comforting for Gembrook Cockatoo faithful that she’s more than content with the talent that she’s working with in 2020.
“They had a really good foundation, especially with the amount of strong young players coming through, so it’s just been about trying to find the right people who can come in and compliment their games,”
“These girls have had a lot of pressure on their shoulders the last few years, playing a little bit out of their depth, so getting the right people to fill the gaps will help them progress as players and as a club.”
Excitement level are high at Gembrook Cockatoo with 2020 feeling like a fresh start for the netballers, as they put out new teams, face new opponents and hopefully garner some new results, which Ingram believes could set them up for the long term.
“The girls are super excited about everything, they’ve got new teammates, they’re more than likely going to play in a new grade, they’ve got a new division with new opponents and less travel – which has attracted a lot of players back to the club,”
“But we don’t want to just come in and have heaps of one year players, we really want to continue this foundation, especially with the junior girls that are going to hang around for years to come, to make sure they’ve got somewhere to go, someone to learn off and to just be competitive,”
“Success breeds success, so we want wins on the board.”