High hopes

McIvor Times - - SPORTS - By BAR­BARA SUNGAILA

THE 2016 footy sea­son is less than two months away and for Heathcote, the only way is up.

The Saints have re­cruited sev­eral ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in a bid to make last year’s wooden spoon per­for­mance a dim mem­ory.

Among them is for­mer El­more player and 2006 HDFL Cheat­ley Medal win­ner David Fe­valaki.

He will be joined by Kyle Gilling­ham from Wan­della, Jack­son Bai­ley from Mar­cellin Col­lege, Joel Os­borne from Kan­ga­roo Flat, and Ricky Stephens and Mitch John­son — both from Di­a­mond Creek.

Se­niors coach Paul Kennedy said there were likely to be an­other three new play­ers.

‘‘But I don’t want to give any de­tails un­til they’ve signed,’’ he said.

Kennedy said the club had de­lib­er­ately sought se­nior play­ers.

‘‘We had a very young side last year and we’ve de­lib­er­ately gone out and re­cruited some se­nior age play­ers and guys that have played a fair bit of se­nior foot­ball,’’ he said.

‘‘When you’re try­ing to in­tro­duce a game plan like we tried to do last year, it was very hard be­cause of the (play­ers’) age.’’

Kennedy said the older play­ers would bring a range of ben­e­fits to the club.

‘‘They’ll un­der­stand what we’re try­ing to do a lot bet­ter and I think we’ll be a rea­son­able out­fit.

‘‘We want them to be lead­ers and help men­tor some of th­ese young guys.

‘‘And th­ese young guys will now get op­por­tu­ni­ties to play in po­si­tions where they prob­a­bly should have been play­ing in, in­stead of po­si­tions where they were com­pletely out of their depth.’’

Kennedy is keen to see an im­prove­ment in Heathcote’s for­tunes on the field but was care­ful not to over­play ex­pec­ta­tions about the new team mem­bers.

‘‘I know a cou­ple of the guys from Mel­bourne, but I don’t know much about the guys from Bendigo,’’ he said.

‘‘All I know is we’ve re­cruited se­nior play­ers, and I don’t want to put any pres­sure on any­body to be a stand­out.

‘‘So we’ll just wait and see how they all go.’’

But he stressed the club still had high hopes for the sea­son.

‘‘Our plan, like all the other sides, is to play fi­nals footy.

‘‘There’s no ques­tion about that . . . fi­nals is the aim.

‘‘We’ve got a very tough draw — El­more is first up and they’re pre­dicted to play fi­nals, North Bendigo, the premier­ship side, se­cond round and Col­binab­bin third round.

‘‘So we’ll cer­tainly know where we’re at af­ter about round three.’’

Photo: Bar­bara Sungaila

New Saint Ricky Stephens with se­niors’ coach Paul Kennedy.

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