THE effort and commitment of his players over pre-season training has Camperdown mentor Phil Carse excited about what his group can achieve this season.
The fourth year coach said he was pleased with how his players had approached the pre-season after falling short of finals football last year.
He said the senior group had been training three nights a week in readiness for their opening round clash with Terang Mortlake, splitting their time between the Leura Oval and Nick Hose’s gym.
“I’ve been really pleased with the progress to date,” Carse said.
“We’ve had good numbers consistently, showing some great buy-in from the team and most importantly our testing has shown some outstanding improvements.”
In December, Carse said he would be urging the group to take more ownership ahead of the season.
He said he was impressed with what he seen from his group to date and said the club had been working hard on the track and in the gym, with a key focus on how the group uses the football.
A number of individuals have stood up during the summer months, which have impressed Carse, and although he believes the group is on the right track, he knows there is more work to be done.
“Riley Arnold has once again set the tone with his running, while I think the leadership of our assistant coaches Luke Mahony, Fraser Lucas and Cam Spence has been really important,” Carse said.
“Jesse Gallichan and Sam Cunnington are also pushing themselves and their team-mates really hard on the track.
“Overall we’ve really been working on the group taking ownership of their own destiny and with that, I think we’re seeing some leaders really emerge from within the group.
“Our ball movement patterns and defensive structure has also been reinforced and we are seeing some great improvements on that aspect too.”
The Magpies also currently have a healthy list, with no injuries from across the pre-season.
The return of a club captain is also impending, with one of the Pies leaders reaching the next stage of his recovery from shoulder surgery.
“Our long term injury from last year with a shoulder operation in Jacob Mahony is making great progress and has been given clearance already to start some contact work as he gets himself ready for round one,” Carse said.
The senior group embarked on an overnight camp at the Grampians recently, with 25 players taking part in a variety of sessions.
They included skills and conditioning sessions and a hike to the Pinnacle, before conducting leadership presentations during the evening.
That camp was beneficial to the playing group according to Carse, with the Magpies leader saying the camp gave his players a chance to bond outside the football field.
He said that was important, particularly as the Magpies are only a week away from their first hit-out of the season, with practice matches to be played against Modewarre, Hamilton, Colac and North Warrnambool.
Carse said he was looking forward to seeing how his charges progress across the four matches, but singled out the clash with Geelong Football League side Colac as a “real test” for the club.
“We have Modewarre on March 10, Hamilton on March 17 and Colac on the 24th of March before we play North Warrnambool a week before the season starts (April 7),” he said.
“We will start with a big squad overall in the early matches and work it back closer towards our best 21 as round one approaches.
“I think we have a really good mix of sides including Colac who are one of the benchmark squads in the GFL.
“I was very keen on this game in particular as I think we can learn more from being exposed to a team in a higher level than us who have some great individual players as well as team structures and discipline.”
With round one only six weeks away, Carse said his side’s goal was still a return to the finals.
However, both he and his players know there is still plenty of work to be done if they are to achieve that goal.
“We still want to be part of September action,” he said.
“But the group knows we have to have ourselves in outstanding physical shape before round one to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving that”
All of Camperdown’s pre-season matches will be held at Mahony’s Transport Leura Oval.