By Colin MacGillivray
OPTIMISM is running high at Whittlesea Football Netball Club as the team prepares to re-enter the Northern Football Netball League’s (NFNL) top-flight competition on its home ground this weekend.
The Eagles were promoted to division one prior to the cancellation of the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and new club president Cameron Powell said the young side was raring to go.
“It’s all really positive. The vibe around the place is one of excitement and expectation,” he said.
“The best thing [coach] Blair Harvey has brought is a younger age demographic of 18 to 25-year-olds, and he’s done that with his recruiting.
“A lot of the older guys from 28 to 33 or 34 are still playing as well, and a lot of their kids have just been born, so it’s a really positive place to be around.
“There’s a lot of families there on a Thursday night whether the kids are at junior training or their dads are training in the seniors.
It’s really hard to get a seat on Thursday nights since we’ve been able to get meals up and running again.”
Among the young recruits picked up by the Eagles are brothers Cam, Mitch and Jake Wild, as well as Daniel Ferronato, Cam Barrett and big man Sam Peet.
Powell said Saturday’s round one match at Whittlesea Showgrounds against Greensborough, which finished runner-up in the NFNL division one grand final in 2019, would be a good test for the young side.
“It will absolutely be a measuring stick for where our team is at. I know the playing group is keen to embrace that and take it on,” he said.
“The guys are really confident in the game plan and they think they can go out and beat anyone – that’s the message coming from the coaching group. Blair has been really positive. He knows the young blokes are going to make some mistakes, but he wants them to keep taking it on.
“The practice match form has been fairly solid and they feel they can go out and have a red hot crack against any team in division one.”
Powell said the outlook was positive off the field as well as on it.
“We’ve had a lot of sponsors who have jumped back on board after they couldn’t because of COVID in 2020,” he said.
“We had a major fundraiser a couple of weeks ago called All In with the Eagles where we had Dane Swan, Brendan Fevola, Merv Hughes, Chris Johnson and Campbell Brown come along. They did a talk and we had a three-course meal, then cleared the room and played poker.
“It’s something Whittlesea had never seen before, that sort of calibre of celebrity coming into the club.
“We’ve put together membership packages and the response has been absolutely fantastic. We’ve been able to make up a bit of the money shortfall we had in 2020.”
Powell said women’s sport was on the rise at Whittlesea as well.
“On the netball side of things we’ve grown to three teams from two in 2019,” he said.
“Our women’s football team was supposed to have its inaugural season last year, but that didn’t happen because of COVID. This year the numbers have actually increased, so that’s been really positive for the club.
“The girls have been fantastic, and the coach Jarrod Kendall has been really good and positive. Their practice match form has been fantastic and they’ve won both their practice games, so that’s really positive heading into the first round this Sunday.”