Whittlesea retains flag stars

Whittlesea has retained more than half of the side that brought the Eagles back to division one.

By Jackson Russell

With Whittlesea’s return to the Northern Football Netball League’s top-flight competition postponed until 2021, the Eagles have proactively re-signed several 2019 premiership players.

Despite the league’s salary cap being slashed in half for 2021, 15 of the club’s division two premiership players, including all five members of the Eagles’ leadership group, will return.

Reigning division two best and fairest, grand final best and fairest and new captain Xavier Dimasi was the first to re-sign, leading to three-time premiership players Nathan Andrews and vice-captain Matthew Atta and 2019 top goalkicker Jaron Murphy also signing on.

Paul Higgins, Clancy Bland, Brody Bell, Zach Molloy, Josh Eid, Nick Pupillo and Sam Indian will return to the club for 2021 as well.

The Eagles were promoted to the league’s division one after winning the division two premiership last year.

Eagles coach Blair Harvey said the club wanted to get on the front foot and secure its young talent.

“We started talking to players two or three weeks ago and with the 50 per cent cut to salary cap, we started with our captain and vice-captain and to their credit, they’ve stuck with the club,” he said.

“All five leaders signed straight away which showed great form from our leaders that they’re sticking by the club and the rest are starting to follow.”

NFNL division two best and fairest and grand final best on ground Xavier Dimasi was the first of the premiership Eagles to resign.

Harvey said re-signing Dimasi was an easy conversation.

“He knows where the club is going, the club’s got a real direction for the next three to five years and it’s been a total buy-in from him. Then for the leaders to follow, it’s a great example to everyone at the club that we do have stability,” he said.

Whittlesea was one of the youngest lists in the competition after going into the 2019 division two decider with an average age of around 21.5 years.

While admitting it was disappointing not to be able to play division one football this year, Harvey said it could benefit the club as it gave some of the younger players a chance to grow and mature for division one football.

“I reckon there’s room for natural improvement by 40 or 50 per cent with the group that we’ve got,” he said.

“Our focus over this period, where they can’t do much and there’s no footy, is to strengthen up a bit.

“A lot of boys are working on their strength, and if guys can put on four or five kilos going into next season, it’s only going to help us going into division one.”