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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Avenel changes course in bid to finally make September

New player-coach Cameron Gillett makes no apologies for the path he is taking.

CHALPAT SONTI April 3, 2014 4:20am

Avenel has been doing the hard yards on the training track this pre-season.


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FOOTBALL

Cultural change is one of those terms often talked about, yet harder to put into place — but new Avenel player-coach Cameron Gillett knows it’s what’s needed for the Swans to become a KDFL force again.

The Tallarook-based veteran of the Eastern and Essendon leagues has been running some tough training sessions in preparation for a quick, mobile style of game. It hasn’t found favour with everyone, but those who have stayed the course so far can vouch for its benefits. Especially given fitness was probably the key thing that has let the side down in recent years — Avenel has looked as good as any side in patches, but hasn’t been able to stay the course for long enough against the top teams.

‘‘This group has embraced it and can see the hard work is paying off,’’ Gillett said.

‘‘We’ve really brought back a lot of discipline and team respect. We want blokes to run out with pride, not only are they playing footy but they’re representing the footy club.

‘‘I think it’s exciting for the club, especially because it hasn’t recruited this calibre of player before,’’ he said.

The key ‘‘ins’’ of course have been East Perth (WAFL) midfielders Don Stirling and Michael Morgan, with Kasey Duncan recently also signing on to play for his home town after a stint with Euroa in the GVFL. Tim Dundon has moved over from Seymour, and Ben Doddridge is a signing with a difference.

The gifted basketballer hasn’t played football since under-12 level, because his parents were posted overseas for many years. But he’s making up for lost time, it seems.

‘‘He’ll be good,’’ Gillett said.

‘‘He’s super athletic, he’s towelled everyone in the 400s and 200s and he’s got that real basketballer’s ability to jump and tap the ball. He may be the most mobile ruckman in the league.’’

Probably equally as big as any signing is last year’s best-and-fairest Cael McCarthy’s decision to stay, and Doddridge should free him up to play at centre half forward or full forward.

The other tall mainstay of recent years, Paul Arandt is unavailable for the early part of the season and will reassess it after that, while Travis Muir has gone to Broadford and Dean Fulco has headed overseas to play cricket.

Gillett has watched DVDs of games from last year and he promises something completely different for the KDFL.

‘‘This group is fit and we want to play a real running style of footy,’’ he said.

‘‘Particularly with our midfield, we want to utilise those guys. You can’t just play stagnant footy, kicking, marking, kicking any more. We need to use our fitness.

‘‘I wanted to watch those DVDs to see how the ball moves (in the KDFL) and the players have been able to see from the training we’ve been doing, it’s not like anything they’ve been doing — it’s completely different.’’

And there’s one obvious goal for a club that has under-achieved for too long.

‘‘When I sat down with the club at the start of the year and asked then what they expected, they couldn’t see any reason why we can’t play finals, provided we got that fitness base. The club will be disappointed if we don’t play finals, and we owe it to our good sponsors and a lot of people who’ve put in a lot of effort here and who want to see a reward.

‘‘My style of coaching is new to everyone and we’ve picked the practice games with a purpose. Yea (played on Saturday) was chosen because of the big ground there and also they’ve recruited really well. We wanted solid hit outs before the season started.’’

And it won’t get much harder than last season’s beaten grand finalist Stanhope on Saturday. The time has come for Avenel to send a message that it wants to be taken seriously as a KDFL force again, and Saturday seems a good place to start.

NETBALL

If anyone knows how good Avenel’s A-grade netball side should be, it’s Anita Lynch.

The 300-plus gamer will coach the team this year and her new-look Swans — with some familiar faces returning — have a benchmark to aim for.

‘‘Last time A-grade made the grand final I played, and that was seven years ago,’’ she said.

‘‘This team is probably just as good as them, but we need to know what the other sides are like. But you find the second half of the season doesn’t always work out like the first half either.’’

Avenel will get an early taste of that when it takes on perennial contender Stanhope on Saturday. It’s a repeat of the last game the Swans played last year, when it beat the eventual grand finalists but just missed a place in September itself. Overall 2013 was one of under-achievement for Avenel, given the players it had, and it’s something everyone is keen to put right.

But that was then. This year Avenel have a radically-different line-up. Some of the stalwarts of recent seasons such as Nicky Lord, Bree D’Andrea, her sister Kara Clydesdale and Nikita McDonald as well as Ashleigh Paholek are missing.

In their place are returners Jacinta Jamison, Sarah Milne and Tegan Sidebottom, previous Swans from even earlier in Kelly Smith, Sarah D’Orria and Dee Thomson, another recruit from Seymour in Paige Hockley and a shooter from Melbourne who Lynch only remembers as Josie. Kasey Syzdlowski and Haidee Cadd have moved up from B-grade.

‘‘It’s quite a versatile side,’’ Lynch said.

‘‘Last year we didn’t have that versatility but this year we do. If someone’s away I can always change up the team and hopefully it won’t affect them.’’

The team has been training well and had practice games at Heathcote and Yea. Lynch is after a fast-paced game, and the side is fit and quick.

‘‘We’ve been working a lot on speed and position and driving around the court,’’ she said.

‘‘They should on paper make finals and they’re working towards that but we’re going to find out how good we are against Stanhope.’’

Next week: Seymour.

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