The first ever AFL Outer East season is creeping ever closer, and as anticipation builds we’ll be taking a closer look at each and every club in our newly formed home.
It’s been an off season of minor tweaks and upgrades for the Yea Football and Netball Club as the Tigers look to build on an impressive 2018 campaign and launch into 2019 with a bang.
The Tigers were particularly strong on the netball court where their star-studded A Grade side took out the Grand Final in a nail-biting one goal win against Kinglake, whilst they finished runner-up in B Grade, won another premiership in C Grade and earned a semi-final birth in D.
The Tigers A Grade premiership came off the back of some brilliant performances all season from Melissa Martinov (GS), Gaby Duncan (GD) and Sam Coppinger (Interchange) who were all selected in the AFL Yarra Ranges Division 2018 Two Team of the Year.
Yea’s netball has been strong for the past few seasons, with all sides making finals in the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, but with two premierships, last season was the pick of the bunch. If their year by year form line is anything to go by, they’ll be set for even more success this season.
For the football department the 2019 pre-season has been an indifferent one, with some key departures causing second year coach Ash Walsh to change his original plans.
However with plenty of experience in football, Walsh should be well set for the challenge. Having played all his junior football for the Tigers, Walsh moved to city for study and continued his football career at Old Scotch in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
He then spent a six years at Seymour before travelling to London, where he spent two years coaching the Wandsworth Demons in the AFL London competition, leading the Demons to the 2017 premiership.
His passion for coaching now burning, Walsh was able to ticket an item off his bucket list last season, when he took over as the Tigers coach.
The Tigers finished sixth in 2018 just percentage out of the finals. This left the Tigers bitterly disappointed considering that they had failed to win any of their last six games which would have secured a finals berth. Walsh and the Tigers football department had planned to ‘top up’ their list during the off-season but due to the departures of some key players, they were forced to change tact and set upon a ‘mini rebuild’.
“We’ve had blokes depart for a number of reasons, all of them with a heavy heart, some fellas moving due to instructions from their VFL clubs, wanting to play the best standard of footy they can, whilst our full back James Ryan moved to New South Wales for work,”
“What’s a real positive is that we’ve maintained a really strong coaching team with Brian Darcy staying on, good friend and experienced Senior player Dan Belsten stepping up as assistant coach and the reserves coaches Ed Neilson and Ben Broadway continuing from last year.
“We’ve been working hard to find blokes that can bring some experience and knowledge into the group.”
However with Yea’s location amongst the AFL Outer East, it is important that the club doesn’t just sign anyone. The players must have the right personality fit for the Tigers.
“We usually look to recruit good people first and footballers second, because we can’t afford to chase a big fish year after year and want to keep our great culture intact,”
“Often we find players who have moved from the country to Melbourne that want to come play for Yea because it’s a country town that’s a reasonable drive from the metro suburbs and has great people, or blokes from league like the VAFA who want to experience country footy.”
Three players that have met the personality and football requirements of the Tigers are;
Ruckman Jay Eager, forward Mathew Squires and defender Sam Bowler – who shares a London connection with Walsh.
“Bowlsy and I played in London together, he’s a great backman and more importantly will bring some leadership into our group.”
“Adding some of these experienced footballers will really help the development of our younger brigade, especially guys like Aiden McSpeerin, Xav O’Dwyer and Jordy Harry who came a long way last year and have already stepped up in the off-season. It’s going to be exciting watching them this year.”
Yea’s list won’t be the only thing that’s changing in 2019. Walsh is also looking to tweak his side’s game style which left them somewhat stagnant and predictable when exiting their own defensive fifty and therefore impacting their ability to score last season.
“It (the game plan) will still have the same principles but we’ve adjusted the way we move the footy – we’re looking to be more dynamic when rebounding from the back which should in turn create some more ‘one on one’ contests in our forward fifty.”
“Our goal of making finals doesn’t change, but realistically this season I want us to knock a few of the top sides off on our way, which is something we struggled with last year.”
When speaking about the driving factor behind his immense passion for leading his beloved Tigers, Walsh cited giving back to his local community and the challenges that coaching a country town brings.
“It’s a combination of two things – giving back to the club who gave me so much as a junior and the challenge of getting Yea back to its glory days.”
Yea host last season’s runners up Seville to start their 2019 season.