By Matt Fotia
Berwick Springs won’t be using their infancy as an excuse in 2020 as they prepare for battle in the AFL Outer East Division One.
Inaugural coach of the Berwick Springs FNC Senior side Rodney Benstead has channelled his inner Brad Pitt for the Titans first season in the 2:10pm time slot, as the club adpoted a ‘Moneyball’ approach to their recruiting.
“The boys have put in a really strong pre-season, after we’ve recruited really well, in the sense that the that players have come to us come with a clean slate and want to put their best foot forward which is exciting for us,”
“Our approach to recruiting has been a ‘moneyball’ one, looking at a number of different avenues to see where we can get the most value with players,”
“We’ve gone far and wide with our recruiting endeavours and I’m really excited to see what the boys can bring.”
As is expected the Titans were the most active club in the AFL Outer East across the off season, bringing over 25 players to pull on the jumper in 2020, from a variety of places.
Benstead says that he and his team wanted to make sure they had an even spread of talent across the field.
“I know that in local football you need a gun ruckman, so we went out and got Cam Carmody from the Doveton Eagles, Aidan Nelson who won the development side best and fairest at Noble Park, Jayden Malek who’s a key back from Rowville and some other good contested ball players,”
“We were looking at all avenues of the ground and trying to sum up what would fit our profile the best.”
Whilst it would be easy to put together a side full of players from other clubs, the Titans will still have some homegrown stars running around with highly touted youngster Riley Hillman expected to debut in Round One.
“We’ll have 12 under 18s from last year be around the mark and I’d say five will likely make their debut in round one which is really exciting for the club,”
“Riley Hillman is a great intercept mark and I think senior football will suit him – he just sees the football and flies for it – so he’ll certainly be getting a go early on,”
“Jarrod Hocking has been a surprise packet, he’s pretty light but he gives us plenty of speed and we want to make sure we’ve got plenty of run in the side.”
Whilst many are expected Berwick Springs to finish the season rooted to the bottom of the table, the folk at Sweeney Reserve are quietly confident that they’ll be more than competitive.
“I don’t put any expectations on the group, a lot of people around us are commenting, but I’m just excited because I know we will be competitive so I’m not going to put a cap on us,”
“We’ll go into every game with an attitude to win it.”
Melissah Robertson has seen a lot in her 15 plus years coaching netball, but taking the reins for Berwick Springs first season fielding all senior grades is still an intimidating task.
“It was a bit daunting and still is a little bit that way, but we’re excited now and there is some good kids and some good skill in there – we’re as ready as we’re ever going to be.”
Unlike their footballing unit, the Berwick Springs netballers have a little more to work with in terms of a foundation. Robertson says that the club aimed to build off its family friendly environment and make it a club people want to be at.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t recruited cleverly however.
“Coming into it (pre-season), our big thing was that we wanted to be the club that you wanted to be a part of, with that good vibe/culture that every club is striving to have,”
“Most recruits have been word of mouth as well as some networks and previous connections,”
“I’ve coached for 15 years so I’ve coached quite a few different players over my time, so I’ve gone back through my lists and made a few phone calls,”
“It’s also given the girls who play in the domestic competition at Casey a pathway, because there isn’t anywhere to go after the junior competition, so we wanted to be able to get the girls that wanted pursue their netball further across.”
At the moment everything is going to plan, with Robertson and the rest of the clubs powers that be receiving positive reports about the enjoyment of the playing group.
The coach knows that if she can get the ‘vibe’ right, the netball will take care of itself.
“We are getting really good feedback, after last year when we had C and D grade we got good feedback that everyone enjoyed their time with us and in 2020 we’ve filled out two extra teams,”
“So at the moment everyone is feeling the vibe and we’re really striving to get the culture right and hopefully that’ll go hand in hand with strengthening our sides.”