By Matt Fotia
2019 saw the Footballers go back a step and Netballers go forward. In 2020 Yarra Glen are making sure everyone moves in the right direction.
2019 was an almost year for the RiverPigs according to senior coach Leigh Thomson.
After finishing with the double chance in 2018 they were poised for another assault on the Division Two Premiership, but a lack of competition for spots and an inability to capitalise saw the club miss finals on the last day of the season.
Their season review highlighted two areas to improve. Their age and their speed.
“It was a year of wasted opportunities, when that competition for spots dies off blokes can take the easy way out, you know taking nights off training here and there and not have to really commit and fight for those positions during the week and you train as you play really,”
“We’re certainly a lot younger than what we were last year with some of the 18s coming through along with a number of recruits from the ages of 18 and 22 which is what we needed,”
“We were too old and too slow last year.”
The RiverPigs have bought in a handful of players from the Eastern Football Netball League across the off season, with Jordan Birnie (Lilydale), Adam Beath (Coldstream), Matthew Cook (Silvan) and Chirnside Park trio Luke Wilson, Mark Butler and Heath Chamberlain joining the club.
“Heath Chamberlain has travelled around a bit, he had a year up at Yarra Junction before heading back to Chirnside Park and he’ll come across and fill that full back role for us,”
“Luke Wilson has also come across – he’s a tough in and under type player very similar to a younger Patty Hayes – a bull at the ball with a never say die attitude, whilst Mark Butler is still a bit of a work in progress with his ball reading ability but he goes hard at it,”
“We’ve also got three or four younger blokes from within coming through who played in our practice match last weekend and they’re certainly up to the standard of senior football.”
Thomson lamented his sides tendency to fade away during the back half of last season, but expects the introduction of youth to not only drive up the intensity at training, but also benefit their late season form in what is shaping up to be another tight Division Two competition.
“Everyone looks pretty good in pre-season when you read all of the social media pages you only see the recruits, not what everyone is dropping out at the bottom end,”
“But kids develop, at our level you’re going to have plenty of kids running around and if you get three or four good kids coming out of your 18s or 19s that can make a world of difference – just look at Gembrook Cockatoo last year,”
“When you haven’t got the 18’s pushing into the reserves and seniors blokes can just rest on their laurels, especially once you’ve had a few injuries,”
“As you saw last year we were in most of the games til half time then our fitness and desire dropped off in the second half, but with those young boys there pushing the standards up its given training and the group a different feel this year,”
“The aim for us this year is definitely finals, we know we probably aren’t quite ready to be a top one or two side this year with a young list, but you get into finals and get some senior football into some young blokes you never know what can happen.”
Yarra Glen’s netballers returned to the finals in 2019 with their A Grade unit reaching the semi finals of the competition under first year coach Alicia Mortley, who was more than pleased with her sides efforts last year.
“I think we went pretty well considering a lot of change had occurred on the netball side and my goal was to get the club back into finals and we achieved that which was a win itself,”
“Then in A Grade we got a win over Yarra Junction and were super pumped to take on Kinglake but unfortunately it didn’t go to plan on the day, but we were pretty happy with the season.”
Last seasons success has seen the club add a handful of players, with numbers much higher then last season.
With the squad bolstered, Mortley and co will be looking to make sure the RiverPigs don’t repeat their sluggish start to the 2019 season.
“To make the next step up we need to hit the ground running, last year we struggled early on so we’ve changed our pre-season training to include ball work right from the start, which should help us on court early on in the year,”
“We also needed to keep on top of our mental approach to the game and making sure we stick together, we’ve been working on how we best handle pressure and so on as a team and keep working on helping each other through tough times.”
Their strengthened sense of togetherness, along with some early season momentum could be what is required for Mortley and her charges to keep moving forward as they eye off a deeper run into finals this year.
“We want to do at least one better than last years semi final, so a preliminary final is the target ad we are different capable of doing it, but we’re well aware that it’s one step at a time at this stage of the year.”