Four-win sea­son is a strong foun­da­tion for next year, says coach

McIvor Times - - SPORTS - By DAVID RAK

The team is com­ing from a long way back af­ter a few rough years — Luke Bell

THE SIL­VER­WARE may be a long way off, but a pos­i­tive out­look re­mains at Pi­geon Park.

Heath­cote man­aged only four wins from their 16 games and suf­fered sev­eral heavy de­feats, in­clud­ing a de­mor­al­is­ing 253-point loss to North Bendigo in round 10.

But the pos­i­tive patches, al­beit small, have given the club a shot in the arm and the mo­ti­va­tion to tackle next sea­son with re­newed op­ti­mism.

Se­nior coach Luke Bell ad­mit­ted his team was out­classed for the ma­jor­ity of the sea­son, but was keen to fo­cus on the Saints’ im­prove­ments.

“We won two games in a row, which is some­thing we haven’t done since 2013,” he said.

“There were also a few play­ers who got their first full year of se­nior footy, which will be a huge boost for us go­ing for­ward.

“The team is com­ing from a long way back af­ter a few rough years and our fo­cus was not on wins or losses com­ing in.

“The goal was and still is to im­prove our­selves and set the team up for fu­ture suc­cess. The wins have been a bonus.”

Af­ter dis­ap­point­ing re­sults in the first two rounds, the Saints ral­lied to see off Lock­ing­ton-Ba­mawm by 47 points in round three.

Heath­cote fol­lowed with a dou­ble whammy that re­minded many of the Saints of old, over­com­ing Mount Pleas­ant and El­more in rounds six and seven in im­pres­sive fash­ion.

Sadly, the nos­tal­gia was short lived with Heath­cote man­ag­ing only one win from their last eight games.

“Ob­vi­ously we’re a long way off the top five teams,” Bell said.

“We were un­der­done com­ing into the sea­son in both skill and fit­ness. The num­bers weren’t great at pre­sea­son.

“If you don’t train and touch the footy, you can’t be at your best.”

Bell said he hopes to use the bright patches from this sea­son to build his team in prepa­ra­tion for next year.

“If you’re not suc­cess­ful it’s hard to get mo­ti­vated. I think the boys weren’t as mo­ti­vated as they could have been,” he said.

“The feel­ing at the club is a mix of op­ti­mism and dis­ap­point­ment. The boys are dis­ap­pointed at the over­all re­sult but were boosted by some good patches.”

The Saints were for­tu­nate to avoid any ma­jor prob­lems with in­juries — the only ca­su­alty was Corey Gil­more who didn’t re­turn to the field af­ter a wrist in­jury mid-sea­son.

Sev­eral young play­ers im­pressed at the club, in­clud­ing Lach­lan Free­manTaber and Caleb Lus­combe who made a strong case for in­clu­sion in next year’s se­nior side.

Bell was con­fi­dent the cur­rent se­nior team will re­turn to Bar­rack Re­serve next year, with only veteran Dan Car­roll a pos­si­bil­ity of call­ing it a day.

“I’ll be catch­ing up with all the play­ers over the next cou­ple of weeks, but I think ev­ery­one is keen to hang around,” he said.

Bell kept his cards close to his chest when asked about new tal­ent mak­ing its way to Heath­cote, but said he was eye­ing some top-end play­ers.

“I can’t name any­one at this stage but we have a list of 40 play­ers we will speak to over the com­ing months,” he said.

Jack Pais­ley in ac­tion for Heath­cote.

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