By Colin MacGillivray
WHITTLESEA senior coach Blair Harvey believes a youth-focused recruiting campaign has set the Eagles up for sustained success as they prepare for the 2021 Northern Football League season.
The Eagles were not idle during the cancelled 2020 season, announcing several new recruits to bolster their list in 2021.
Headlining Whittlesea’s recruiting effort is a trio of brothers – Cam, Mitch and Jake Wild.
Cam, an onballer, had signed with Shepparton United and the Northern Blues before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 season, subsequently playing for Central District in the SANFL and Waratah in the Northern Territory Football League.
Mitch – a utility with the ability to play off half back, on a wing or across half forward – joins from Diamond Creek, while key-position player Jake also joins from Warratah.
The Eagles have also signed athletic former Greensborough half-back/wingman Daniel Ferronato and ex-Balranald onballer Cam Barrett.
Athletic 200-centimetre forward and ruck Sam Peet, who had signed for the 2020 season but is yet to play a game for Whittlesea, was also retained, and the club lured back former players Jacob Bateman and Jordan Ormerod.
Harvey said the recruiting spree would set up Whittlesea’s return to Northern Football League division one.
“It’s definitely good for our depth,” he said.
“All of those players bar one are under 23, so they sit in a perfect demographic for where we are as a club, trying to grow from within.
“We’ve recruited some really good young talent to complement the young talent we’ve already got, and hopefully in years to come we can have some real success in division one and win a grand final in three or four years’ time.
“The club has been up and down for the past 10 years where they’ve been really good in second division but when they come up to first division they’re not able to sustain form in division one.
“This year is all about building a foundation so that we can survive division one this year and then slowly build from there. Anywhere between ninth and fifth is a pass mark for us this season.”
Harvey said last week’s COVID-19 restrictions had interrupted the Eagles’ preseason, but hoped the 2021 season would remain on track.
“When we’ll be able to go back into proper training I don’t know. They say it’s a circuit-breaker and we’ll be back to normal by Thursday, but I kind of doubt it,” he said.
“We don’t know whether we’ll be back to full capacity by mid-March or whether we’re going to come out of this lockdown slowly over a six-to-eight-week period.
“We just have to send our messages to the players. They can do two hours of exercise per day, so all the boys have got a running program.
“We really appreciate the support from our sponsors who are doing it tough themselves but are still able to help out. We can’t thank them enough.”