By Matt Fotia
2019 was tough for Healesville, but 2020 will be different according to Simon Gordon and Nicole Schoch.
This time last year Healesville coach Simon Gordon could see the writing on the wall. Low training numbers spelt danger for the Bloods main man, as they looked to take on the rest of the newly formed AFL Outer East Premier Division.
But in 2020 things are looking better.
“The boys are keen which is half the battle I suppose,” Gordon said.
“We were struggling to get 10-15 blokes on the track this time last year, whereas we’ve got a good young crew of 30 odd at the moment which is great.”
Whilst the Bloods season was a poor one, there were some positives to take out of their Premier Division campaign for Gordon, with a number of Healesville’s youngsters getting precious exposure to good football, which will combine nicely with a few of the returning youngsters the club has in 2020.
“We got some good time into some good young kids which wouldn’t have happened had we retained the blokes that we lost at the end of 2018, plus the fact we’ve kept those young kids at the club are the real positives we can take from last season,”
“It’s good to see some fresh faces out on the track though, Tennyson Amarant and a few others from our recent Under 18 Grand Final side have come back and it’s just a breath of fresh air you know, they’re young and they’re keen for it and the older blokes are running off that energy at the minute.”
Some unexpected game time has seen those young players grow from squad members to real leaders and Gordon expects those players and his game style to develop in 2020.
“Trent (Patience) has been good this year, you know he had a long time off football before 2019, so he’s really just learning his craft again, but he and the other younger blokes like Max Donegan are really leading this pre-season, starting to be more vocal and feel a part of the side, rather than just thinking that they were making up the numbers in the side.”
Moving down into Division One provides Healesville with an opportunity to reshape their game style, after last seasons situation saw them batten down the hatches.
And whilst they’re expected to fare better in 2020, Gordon knows they can’t take their foot off the gas.
“Our main tactic last year was just to survive pretty much, and it was really hard to create any real style of play, but this pre-season – from day dot – we’ve been working on changing our game style and become more of an open and outside team, opposed to last year where we were just holding on for dear life,”
“We haven’t spoken too much about it (the new division), the only reference I’ve genuinely made around it has been about our attitude,”
“Because if we go out there with a poor attitude and that it’ll be easy, well we are probably going to end up in the same position we did last year,”
“We need to go out there and respect the teams we’re playing against for what they are and play a game style that we want to play and that we think can get us to the finals.”
The Chandlers are synonymous with Healesville netball and they’re yet again the reason behind the clubs new growth, with Chenile and Jodi helping land their new coach, Nicole Schoch.
Schoch, who has coached netball for a lengthy period of time, first helped the Bloods out a few years ago before taking the plunge this year, and she’s looking to build on the family spirit that surrounds Healesville as the netballers look to start a mini rebuild.
“This is my first year with Healesville, I coached Chenile and Jodi Chandler through the Lilydale Football Netball Club and at LYVNA with Chenile and they asked me to come up and help a couple of years ago and I did some odd bits and this year I’ve ended up as head coach,”
“Look, the thing is we’re going through a building phase this year, so we’re focusing on a whole club feel this year with all the footballers, female footballers and netballers, and building on that family spirit that Healesville is really well known for.”
Healesville’s junior program is progressing well and pleasingly for the new coach the feedback is all positive about the pre-season thus far.
“I really like the fact we are building up our juniors and developing up all of the other coaches at the club, the junior section is filled with so much potential and that spirit we’re looking for,”
“It’s all about club culture and developing players that will stay for the future and we’ve had some really good feedback about the training and the vibe so far.”
Schoch won’t be looking to put too much pressure on her squad after a poor 2019 on court, with some simple non-negotiables for 2020.
“On court, I just want to see dedication, I want them to go on, be strong and go for the ball,”
“I’m really looking forward to getting everyone together and seeing what we can do.”