By Matt Fotia
Arguably the club who benefited the most from the introduction of a ‘middle’ division in the AFL Outer East, Mount Evelyn are continuing their build in 2020.
Despite the disappointing finish to their 2019, Mount Evelyn coach Mark Fisher is happy with where his club is sitting ahead of the the 2020 season, both on the field and in the coaches box.
The Rovers have been one of the most inactive clubs in the ‘transfer window’ after the football heads at the club made a collective decision not to chase any new players for the year ahead, preferring to focus on what they’ve already got.
“We haven’t recruited at all, the club is trying to consolidate on and off field, so as a footy department we decided not to chase anyone and just put all our time and effort into the blokes we’ve got here committed already,” Fisher said.
“We’re looking really good at the moment, as everybody is at this stage of the year, no injuries and the boys have come back fitter then they have been since I’ve been around, so we’ve been able to amp up the training levels a little bit earlier.”
The club have re-arranged their coaching set up however, with Dave Curnow stepping up into the Senior make up following a very successful stint with the Reserves. This promotion, along with the focus on developing their own youth products, fits into what Mount Evelyn initially asked of Fisher.
“When I came to the club what the club wanted from me was to develop the whole club,”
“Dave Curnow has coached the reserves to a premiership and a grand final so in 2020 he’s going to coach the forwards and that’s going to be really good because he’s passionate and will drive the boys,”
“Jimbo Martin and Shaun Jones will do the midfielders and the backs whilst Chris Morrow is going to take the twos over from Dave,”
“So the coaching side of things is fantastic and if you look at our list, off the top of my head I would say 70% of our list is home grown, the boys are enjoying it (pre-season), they’ve all bought in and the young blokes are having a voice,”
“If for some reason I wasn’t to be the coach of the club in the next month, I know I’d leave the club in a really good place going forward.”
With no new players to fill holes amongst the playing group, Fisher and his coaching staff have experimented with a number of positional and tactical changes as they look to better last years elimination final exit.
“We got scored against quickly and heavily at times, so with a few players coming back from long term injuries and we will change some guys around into different spots and we think that will give us a better look.”
Fisher also said he expects another even year in the AFL Outer East’s Division One, despite a large turnover of clubs in and out of the division with Seville and Gembrook Cockatoo coming up, Healesville coming down and Berwick Springs starting afresh.
“I don’t think the competition will be any different this year, the teams that were strong last year will be strong this year,”
“I think Seville is the unknown, it’s hard to come up and be super competitive but clubs have done it in the past and they’ve gained a few, so they’re an unknown,”
“Gembrook have recruited pretty well but they’re coming from a little way back having finished fifth, Berwick Springs are a start up club who have recruited well but you still never know its so hard being a start up and Healesville are alway strong – they’ll bounce back.”
Whilst a number of their peers have been hard at it all summer long, Mount Evelyn have kept training as informal as possible heading into 2020, with the players given the freedom / responsibility to ensure they remain in good condition following the clubs return to premiership glory.
“I think the celebrations lasted for a little while which was good, but we came together as a group before Christmas for some informal sessions but for us pre-season officially kicks off six weeks before the season starts, the girls are really good with their fitness, so we can focus on making sure that everyone is getting their ball skills back up to scratch.” said coach Kaitlyn Black.
“In the past there have been longer pre-seasons and we’ve pushed to start before Christmas, but we’ve found that six weeks out is the easiest to get full commitment and motivation from the girls,”
“As a coaching group we map out the skills that we want to address and six weeks gives us enough time to lay the foundation for those skills.”
Those skills are clearly at a pretty good base level, with the Rovers unmatched throughout the final rounds of the season on their way to the premiership, something Black will always hold dear.
“It was certainly one of my netballing highlights and I’ve been playing/around the sport for a very long time,”
“It’s up there not just because of the win, but because of the people that I got to share the win with and that’s the biggest message for us to send to the girls this year, that it doesn’t have to happen right from round one,”
“Teams lose games and that’s completely fine, it’s about focusing on the game plan and knowing that you’ll pull it together when the time comes.”
As to whether they’ll be able go back to back, Black remains coy. She’s well aware that the competition will not be standing still as the football netball league culture doesn’t allow it.
“You never know,”
“I know teams like Emerald – who finished with one win last year – have recruited really well and I know a lot of the girls that play for Seville and I know that they’re going to be a good benchmark for the season,”
“But week to week there are team changes and that’s the joy of football netball leagues, because girls in the netballing world play a number of competitions and can get injured, people go away and it means you never really know.”