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Seymour's hopes on the line

Just how are the Lions football and netball sides shaping up this season?

CHALPAT SONTI April 9, 2014 3:56am

The acid is on the Seymour midfield this season.


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Concluding our look at local sides’ football and netball hopes for 2014, CHALPAT SONTI previews the season for Seymour, ahead of the Lions opening clash at Kings Park on Saturday against Benalla.

FOOTBALL

It’s time to step up.

That’s really the message to Seymour’s established and budding senior players as the Lions prepare to launch their 2014 Goulburn Valley Football League season.

The past few years have been like a yo-yo for Seymour, last year narrowly missing the finals after a fairytale run to the grand final in 2012. Prior to that there were some ‘‘out’’ years after the triple premeirship glory.

This year the Lions have a new coach in Brent Colbert, a new team surrounding him and a couple of new signings. In comparison to the world of country football, there has been relatively little movement otherwise, but the club really needs the faith it has shown in many of its players in the past few years to start to pay off.

Into the side comes the marquee signing, former Sydney Swan Brett Meredith, as well as Brent Le Cerf (Nagambie) and Ben Gleeson (Essendon district league side Greenvale). The outs are similarly few with Robbie Douglas, Brendan Liddell and Tom Robertson leaving and Gerard Liddell likely to restrict himself to reserves footy.

Seymour has had three practice games, and Colbert has been happy with the improvement shown in each one.

‘‘Probably our first game (against Lower Plenty at Kings Park) we expected quite a scrappy one,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve tweaked a few things in terms of style of play and structures and it just took a bit of getting used to against Lower Plenty but when we played our next game (at Old Ivanhoe) the improvement was evry big.

‘‘I guess the pleasing thing for me is we’re getting better in all the aspects we want to get better in.’’

But the practice games have uncovered a few pleasant surprises too. Several players, including Le Cerf, Nick Clydesdale, Rhys Clarke and Hugh Robertson, have shown they have gone up another level.

The constant for Seymour in the past couple of years has been the performance of the back six and the forward line. Both have been good game-in game-out, but it is the midfield where games are won and lost and no-one is more aware of that than Colbert.

‘‘The thing about the GV is that all the best players are in the midfield,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t have the strongest midfield going around but this year I want us to be pretty much the most disciplined and best structured midfield there is. We’ve been doing a lot of work on it.’’

Key to that has been Glenn Cole as mids coach.

‘‘I can’t say enough about what he’s done,’’ Colbert said.

‘‘The mids have been training as a group for an extra session each week and I think that’s going to pay off.’’

Meredith has also brought plenty to the club.

‘‘We all know he’s a fantastic player and he adds skill and class to the midfield, but it’s the knowledge he’s brought to the boys as well. He’s actually quite a mature kid in regards to his footy brain and he’s lifted the standard. Jase Cole is another who has been standing out.’’

Le Cerf has been a bolter in the pre-season and has an attitude that pleases his coach.

‘‘He does the basics well at training but doesn’t stand out,’’ Colbert said.

‘‘The way he goes about his game is the same as training, he just gets the job done. I thought he might be a solid type of player with us, but he’s been in the top three or four each game. He just makes the right decisions and while I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, he’s been a real find.’’

Le Cerf is likely to feature on a wing, along with Dan Freeman. The core of the midfield will be Meredith, Cole, Adrian McCarthy, Dylan and Rory Scopel and Harry Wheeler.

McCarthy has been the most improved player at the Lions in recent seasons and Colbert wants to see that continue - not just as a tagger.

‘‘He took some massive scalps last year playing on the best mid every week and keeping them to 10-15 touches but this year I want him to take his game to another level.

‘‘There’s too much improvement in him to be just another tagger. He’s still going to be on the best mid but it won’t be a full shutdown role. While he needs to eb a good stopper he also needs to get his own ball. He knows now he belongs in our midfield and is a good player and he’s got that natural defensive role that a lot of midfielders don’t have.’’

Seymour’s back six looks as good as any in the league. At full strngth it would include Colbert, Matt and Tim O’Keefe, Ash Walsh, Trent Fisher and Brandyn Grenfell at centre half back.

Grenfell’s switch from ruckman is potentially exciting, and a vote of, and in, confidence.

‘‘He’s going to have the two O’Keefe’s by his side guiding him,’’ Colbert said.

‘‘They’re going to demand excellence and make sure he’s concentrating. He’s a confident kid and a lot of other kids could get lost in that role.’’

Grenfell will also pinch hit as back-up ruckman with club legend Shane Schottner being the mainstay.

‘‘Schotty’s still our best ruckman and he’s got a bit of an aura and presence about him where we all want to play for him,’’ Colbert said.

Up front the devastating duo of Saad Saad and Paul Colbert will have Robertson - who took some giant strides last year and again in the pre-season - as a third tall and Clarke as a small in the Gerard Liddell mould. He has been another bolter through the pre-season.

‘‘We’ve got a fantastic big man brigade down there and we just needed to polish it off with a small and he’s put his hand up,’’ Brent Colbert said.

So that’s the basic structure. What about expectations?

‘‘For me personally I always have them for myself so I’ve got high expectations for the team,’’ Colbert said.

‘‘If you go out and do what you want to do well, I know we’ll be there at finals time. And let’s be honest, no one wants Seymour making finals because no matter where we finish (in the top six) we make people nervous.

‘‘This year we’ve got 28-30 blokes in the core group which means we’ve got depth and potentially a really strong reserves side as well and I’ve never seen those numbers in depth in my time here.

‘‘The big thing is we need our 18-20 year-olds improving about 20 to 30 percent, the same with our 21-24s and if you look at the core experienced group you’d be rapt with five per cent there.

‘‘The exciting part is I look at how guys like Dan and Tom Freeman, Trent Fisher and Jase Cole have improved and every player has shown something similar through the pre-season.

‘‘But once the real season starts, that’s the test.’’

NETBALL

What a difference 12 months makes. At least that’s the hope of everyone involved with Seymour netball this year.

Last year’s promise is ready to be converted into this year’s success, and no stone has been left unturned.

A-grade coach Ash Chapman has combined the top two grades into effectively an A/B squad and both sides (and the B-reserve) are brimming full of talent.

A-grade will initially see former Melbourne Vixen Kath Knott partner young gun Millie Brock in the shooters circle. New captain and reigning best-and-fairest Sarah Douglas will be joined in the midcourt by Rosie O’Sullivan and Erin Engel with former VNL player Rebecca Kelly partnering another young star Sarah Szczykulski in defence.

Which means there will also be some big names in the B-grade side. Former A-grade captain-coach Abby Misiti will be there - in a more expansive role - returning from a year off, while consistent A-grade midcourter Tegan Hansen, Grace O’Sullivan and defender Bec Bath will all be there with Ros Rutherford also returning from a two-year absence.

That means most of last year’s B-grade side which made the finals will form the backbone of the B-reserve side, making that team much stronger as well.

But as Chapman said, he doesn’t want the A- and B-grade sides to be seen as separate entities.

‘‘It’s about who fits best where and what combination of players works best,’’ he said.

‘‘I mean the B-grade side has been beating A-grade at times in practice games and I want them to think of themselves as one group. They’re both just as good.

‘‘I’d be looking throughout the year for many B-grade players to have played A-grade at some point and no one should hit that eligibility criteria (10 games at a higher grade means ineligible to move back down) if we share the load.’’

Brock and Szczykulski have both been playing VNL and are raring to go in the GVNL. ‘‘Millie’s light years beyond where she was this time last year and her teaming with Kath is going to be hard to defend,’’ Chapman said.

So far there have been two practice matches - an easy win over Broadford and a game with a difference hosting Diamond Creek on Thursday night. The visitors didn’t bring as many players as they thought they would so played the first two quarters against the A-grade side and the second two aginst B-grade.

Chapman was pretty pleased overall.

‘‘Against Broadford they committed to the structure and put the game plan out there consistently for four quarters which was a fantastic sign,’’ he said.

‘‘(Diamond Creek) was a bit different. We didn’t commit to our game plan from the start and it wasn’t as slick but we’re going to have that. It’s about how we go forward as a group, having faith in the game plan, and that’s part of the learning.

‘‘We’re going to have those weeks where not everyone is going to play well, the structure is not quite coming off, the placement of the ball and execution of the skills aren’t quite there but we have to learn to win ugly.’’

So what are the expectations?

‘‘We’d be expecting to make finals,’’ Chapman said.

‘‘There’s no reason A- and B- shouldn’t play finals, they’re well-equipped teams with the right ammo and they can really put their stamp on the competition but they have to believe in themselves and the game plan.

‘‘We started training in November, which was the first time we’ve started training that early, and our basic fundamental skills are much more advanced than this time last year. We’re in a good place, we just need to realise we’re going to have off moments... everyone can have a bad game but you can still win.

‘‘We’ll have options to shift players around the court and make changes to create shifts in momentum, which we couldn’t do last year. This year we’ve got clearly defined options and we’ll need them all to win.

‘‘We just need to know we can execute our skills at a higher level and set the bar nice and high so we don’t expect anything less.’’

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