By Matt Fotia
After a promising 2019 Emerald are looking at building themselves up to become the AFL Outer East’s next destination club, with their 2020 pre-season just the start of something bigger.
The Bombers, like a lot of clubs who took part in last years Division One, had eyed a finals berth in 2019, but a poor start to the season saw them fall too far behind the leading pack and they were left to settle for their spot as the best of the rest. Their Round 13 win over eventual premier Doveton the biggest highlight of a strong backend to the year.
Second year coach Jamie Marshall says the Bombers went in a little young and underprepared last season, showcased by a convincing Round One defeat to Pakenham.
“With a young group we were bullied, especially early on and we weren’t really ready for some of the bigger grounds like Pakenham and Officer,”
“You know Round One down there (Pakenham) under lights on a big ground we just weren’t ready for that, we weren’t expecting it to be like that.”
The sluggish start to the year led to Marshall and his coaching staff to hold a meeting with the playing group to reflect on where they were and where they wanted to be come the end of the year, and whilst most of the end goals were about setting up off field, their finishing record of 5-11 still a left a little to be desired.
“Where we finished, we would’ve been happier with a couple more wins, but you know we had a bit of a mid season reflection with the boys on where we wanted to see ourselves at the end of the season, what our goals were win wise and all that sort of stuff,”
“One of the main goals last year was to work on the club culture, especially with a big change in the coaching staff, so to be able to bring in and implement a few things that I wanted to bring into the club, like bringing the football and netball closer and build that was atmosphere was good,”
Whilst early season losses are never the desired outcome, they did serve a purpose for Marshall and his crew. They shaped their off season shopping list.
Emerald have brought in Matt Livermore (Tooradin-Dalmore), Matt Steer, Patrick Chin (Nilma Darnum), Mehdi Dahoud (Heatherton) and Nicholas Lang (Toordain-Dalmore) for their 2020 campaign after the Bombers identified a need for bigger bodies and older heads.
“Pakenham and Officer touched us up a couple of times and there were a few times where we were in front but couldn’t capitalise and getting older heads in will help us with that, later in games when the pace has slowed down,”
“We’re pretty happy with what we’ve been able to get back to the club with Matt Livemore and Nick Lang,”
“Nick played all his junior football at Emerald, went off to Berwick, had three to four years at Casey and then was at Tooradin-Dalmore, so to get him back at the club as a senior footballer is a massive get for the club,”
“Matt Steer comes back also and a few other players which has been good and they’ve slotted in nicely, everyone is getting on really well and everyone is working really hard,”
“Those older heads and bigger bodies is what we really lacked last season, we had the youth and we had the speed there, but we decided at the end of the season that we needed the bigger bodies and older heads to steady the ship when it needs to be and so far so good.”
So whilst 2020 will be different for the Bombers, with some of the aforementioned experience coming on board and more awareness of what they’ll be up against. But this year isn’t the be all and end all for Marshall.
“You never want to be happy where you are, you always want to strive to get to that next level and keep going until you exhaust those avenues or get to where you want to be,”
“Always strive to be better, so that’s what we will be doing, we definitely want to build all aspects of the club and see where we end up,”
“We want to make ourselves a destination club.”
Kim Walker is back as the Head Coach of the Emerald netballers, after a four year break from the game, which all started because of an itch she couldn’t scratch and some consistent contact at the club.
“I’ve always kept my finger on the pulse and I said to one of the girls the last time I was down there that I might come back and play in the lower grades, so let me know when pre-season starts,”
“I got a call months later about it and by then I’d realised I was nowhere near fit enough to play and the phone call eventually ended up with the question being asked about whether I’d thought about doing some coaching and it just snowballed from there,”
“It’s going well, it’s been a lot of self development for me, you know to get back on and study like crazy and update my coaching levels and go back over my coaching notes – plus we’ve been inundated with new players which is fantastic.”
The Bombers, who finished at the foot of the Division One table in 2019, have been active in the off season, bringing a number of key players to the club, including ex Narre Warren skipper Leigh Taylor plus VNL stars Tayla Shannon and Kaylah Loulanting.
Walker arrived in the role after her new recruits, but says a meeting between Football/Netball Manager John Rich and the playing group at the end of the 2019 season led to the recruiting drive.
“That (the recruiting) was all John Rich,”
“Apparently there was a meeting held with the girls late last year and they were asked what direction they would like to see the club go,”
“We’ve always relied on local talent, but we’ve also not been up there on the ladder for a while and they (the girls) wanted the changes, so they left it to John and he went on a campaign,”
“We’ve had some older players who have come back into the mix as well so that’s about seven players of a high skill level who have come back and that has lifted the intensity at training and the depth as it has some of the girls going down the grades and we’ve got a nice mix of ages going through the grades.”
Walker isn’t willingly to get carried about the Bombers prospects in 2020, but is confident that her crew will be more than competitive.
“I’m really positive about how we’re going to go and I think being out of the loop means I’m not up with who’s the challengers,”
“So I think we’ll go okay, middle of the range to up around the finals, but my main hope is that we’ll be competitive and get that winning feeling back around the club.”