CAMPERDOWN’S chances of playing finals football next season have received a welcome boost with the signing of several players.
Five recruits will take to the wings of Leura Oval next season, with three former players and a VFL pair all putting pen to paper.
Luke Mahony and Fraser Lucas return to their home club as playing assistant coaches, alongside 100-gamer Nick Bateman.
Jack Williams also returns, and is set to be joined by his Werribee team-mate Jason Robinson, with the duo set to wear black and white when they are not required at VFL level.
Camperdown has been building quietly this off-season and is set to wrap up their first block of pre-season training tonight.
The Magpies identified the need to add size to its list to build on last season’s sixth place, as Camperdown finished just outside finals contention with a developing crop of younger players.
Senior coach Phil Carse said that the signings would add another edge to the current playing group.
“I think most importantly all five recruits bring experience and leadership to a young up and coming group,” he said.
“One of the main things we identified early was that we have great kids coming through, and we need to put a few bigger bodies around them.
“Alongside that, we have guys who can bring voice and instruction to a group that’s still on a learning trajectory.”
Lucas and Mahony return from Myrtleford and Hopetoun-Beulah respectively, with Carse expecting the pair to play key roles.
“I think bringing Fraser and Luke into the group will give us plenty of skill and flexibility through the midfield group and we know both can play at either end of the ground also,” Carse said.
“They both join the club in assistant coaching-leadership roles, where they will inject what they’ve learned away from the club the last few years, and bring with them fresh voices and fresh ideas.”
Bateman spent a season at Mininera club, Woorndoo-Mortlake, with his height set to be vital in the Magpies’ best 21.
He is another that can play multiple positions, and having represented the league in his last stint at the club, Carse was excited to have him back.
“Nick Bateman comes back to the club from Woorndoo where he kicked plenty of goals as a deep forward option, but we also know he can play effectively across half back,” Carse said.
The availability of Williams and Robinson may change week to week but Carse was happy to have the duo on board.
Both played at Werribee last season, with Robinson coming to the club after striking up a friendship with Williams.
The pair have senior VFL experience but with the Tigers not renewing their alignment with AFL club North Melbourne in favour of going stand-alone in the state’s premier league, Camperdown may see them frequently in 2018.
“We know what Jack Williams offers as a defender but we also saw him roll forward last year and kick goals as a key option,” Carse said.
“He won the Development league best and fairest award for Werribee last year from only 11 games which highlights his quality.
“Jason Robinson is a tall running utility who can go on ball, through the wing or at either end of the ground.
“With plenty of senior VFL experience he is a ready-made player.”
Player retention this off-season has also been crucial to Camperdown after several players left following the 2016 season.
The club has re-signed the majority of its list and is hopeful Luke Clarke and Jacob Mahony can play more games after both having injury interrupted years.
“After losing a fair amount of players the year before we’ve been able to retain really well heading into 2018,” Carse said.
“Other than Jordan Bain heading back to Queensland, the majority of the senior list will stay intact alongside those new recruits.
“We’re still a young side overall but for me that shows plenty of scope for sharp improvement.”
With the players set to break for around a month over the festive period, Carse was happy with the efforts from his players pre-Christmas.
There has been a bigger focus to improve the defensive effort across the ground, with Carse saying his side leaked too many points last season.
He wants his side to use their early finish to drive their 2018 campaign, but was well aware that every other Hampden league side will be operating similarly.
“I’ve been really pleased with the pre-season to date in terms of player buy-in and attendance,” Carse said.
“We’ve had 40-plus players train so far with a consistent core showing they’re willing to put in the extras.
“Many of our up-and-coming players are taking big steps towards taking their games to the next level.
“There is no doubt we want to improve on last season, you’re never satisfied watching finals action from the sidelines, but like any team at this time of year that is our goal.”
Supporters can expect to see the new-look coaching panel have a positive impact on the current group, although Carse revealed he is putting the onus on players to take more responsibility.
With three assistant coaches set to be on-field with the coach and with Neville Swayn set to control the bench, Carse hopes the changes will create a ‘more inclusive environment’.
Cameron Spence is the other playing assistant coach, and Carse is excited he can pave the way for the trio in their first forays into coaching.
“I think this group is at the stage now where we have players with enough games behind them, that we need to take ownership of our own destiny,” Carse said.
“I identified early that I think I personally need to hand more responsibility back to the playing group and part of that was the decision to actively seek playing assistant coaches.
“I think Cameron, Fraser and Luke are at stages in their careers that coaching gives them a new challenge and something to develop them further into the next chapter of their footy journeys.
“I’m really excited that I can help guide them in that part of their passage moving forward.”