Footscray season preview
vfl.com.au recently chatted to new Footscray senior coach Steve Grace about what could lie in store for the club on the field in 2017.
AFL ALIGNMENT: Western Bulldogs
2016 FINISH: Premier (15-7)
2016 BEST AND FAIREST: 1. Jordan Russell / 2. Mitch Honeychurch / 3. Lukas Webb
2016 TEAM OF THE YEAR: Jordan Russell
2016 DRAFTEES: Ben Long (pick no.25 to St Kilda) / Mitch Hannan (no.46 to Melbourne)
KEY 2017 INS & OUTS:
- In: Anthony Bruhn (Frankston YCW) / Jayden Foster (Carlton AFL) / Matthew Goodyear (Collingwood AFL) / Billy Gowers (Carlton AFL) / Josh Patullo (Gippsland Power)
- Out: Mark Austin / Simon Deery / Mitch Hannan (Melbourne AFL) / James Hayes / Ben Long (St Kilda AFL) / Hugh Wales
DEPARTED PLAYERS WHO’LL BE MISSED:
“Apart from Ben Long and Mitch Hannan, who were drafted, there isn’t another VFL-listed player from our Grand Final team that we’ve lost.
“Ben and Mitch getting drafted is important because it gives some credibility to our program. We’ve won premierships in 2014 and 2016 but that can be a reflection of your aligned AFL list. When you’re able to get VFL-listed players drafted though, it gives our program a big tick.”
RECRUITS WHO COULD MAKE AN IMPACT:
Billy Gowers: “Billy has made a strong start and a strong impression at the club after coming from Carlton. He was impressive in a practice game against Collingwood across half back. His aggression at the ball and his ability to break the lines is something we think will be useful.”
Matthew Goodyear: “Matt came across from Collingwood’s AFL team with me. He’s an inside midfielder and played two AFL games last year. He’s a real impressive character with good hands and power inside the contest and good leg speed on the outside.”
Jayden Foster: “Jayden came to us from Carlton. He’d been on their list for the last two years and been used predominantly as a defender. We’re using him as a forward and he’s made some good inroads. He kicked three goals against Collingwood in a practice match.”
Anthony Bruhn: “Anthony’s a more mature player – he’s 27 years old – from Frankston YCW. He has great aerobic capacity and can get up and down the ground all day. He’s a forward.”
Josh Patullo: “Josh will probably fill our 23rd player role. He played as a 19-year-old at Gippsland Power last year and is a ruckman/forward with powerful hands. He has a great work rate, is an honest kid, competes well and covers the ground well for a big guy.”
“Lauchlan Dalgleish, Nick Jamieson, Alex Greenwood, Will Hayes, Liam Nash, Anthony Barry, Jordan Russell, Jordan Staley, Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith and Shaun Wyatt are all players who are significant contributors to the team. I’d be loath to split any of those players, because I know they were very close in the best-and-fairest last year.
“Throw in Matt Goodyear as an inside midfielder and Billy Gowers with his power as well.”
Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith (pictured): “Andrew is one to watch. He had a strong season last year as a 19-year-old. He mostly played as a running defender but he’s got room to grow as a midfielder, there’s no doubt. He’s had a really strong pre-season and we’re looking for him to significantly grow.”
Will Hayes: “Will played under a bit of duress towards the end of last year and he’s looking to really blossom this year. (He’s kicked 31 goals in 29 games over the last two years as a forward, but) he’s played a fair bit of midfield time over the pre-season.”
Shaun Wyatt: “Shaun is a strong forward. He had a significant foot issue late last year that he’s gotten over. He’s training strongly and we’re looking for him to enter footy in probably the first four rounds. He was a significant player for the club last year with his ability to hit the scoreboard (15 goals in 10 games) and apply significant pressure.”
BIGGEST TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Our strengths will be our adaptability and our flexibility in having players able to play multiple roles. That’s important on game day if things aren’t going the way you’d like them to go, because you’ve got the ability to play players in different roles and maybe spark something.
“There’s some ownership from the core group of players who have now played together for two years under a new regime at the Bulldogs with Luke Beveridge (as Western Bulldogs’ senior coach). The game style has become ingrained, so them being able to take that game style to another level should also be a strength of ours.”
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT ON 2016:
“It’s always a challenge to improve your efficiency with your last kick inside 50. That’s something we’ve worked reasonably hard on and we’ll continue to. We’re hoping to get some improvement there, and it’s a reflection of how you move the ball further up the ground.”
COACHING PANEL CHANGES:
“Stewart Edge has remained but our other assistant coaches are all different. Greg McLachlan is one of our new assistants – he’s been involved in TAC Cup football with the Oakleigh Chargers for a number of years and coached A-grade amateur football previously. Rohan Smith will help out on game day with our coaching staff, which is a bonus. Stephen Mead – who’s been involved previously in TAC Cup programs and at VFL level with Port Melbourne in their 2011 premiership year – will be a development coach/bench coach. Jordan Russell is the mainstay there as a playing back line coach and development coach.”