Rams preparing for big season
There seems little doubt that Natimuk United will be among teams setting a course for further improvement when Horsham District football swings back into action later this year.
The Rams have in the off-season continued to consolidate structural, financial and social foundations, which combined with a sniff of finals last year, augurs well for an outfit set on challenging the pacesetters.
History shows that Natimuk United clawed its way into an elimination final last season, only to fall at the line by four points to Swifts.
The result is sure to have provided the playing list with a burning incentive for this year.
Coach Sam Anson, again directing traffic from the field, said as much in summarising his team’s pre-season build-up. “There is a very good vibe at the club at the moment,” he said. “We have good numbers and depth, this year is going to be fantastic.
“We’re definitely in a lot better position than we were at this time last year. We were very inexperienced in the finals last year
– I think only five players had been in finals – and now we’ve had a taste for it, the hunger is there.”
Providing fuel for growing confidence in the camp is a successful recruiting campaign, which appears to have iced a promising group.
At the top of the list is new assistant coach Garry Hallam, sure to bring considerable experience and defensive balance to the list.
Joining him is Jayden Styles, who played with Anson in Melbourne Amateurs’ team Vermont and is described by Anson as ‘powerful: a bit of a steam train with the ability to jump’.
Queenslander Jack Ford, recruited to the club last year but seriously hurting his knee and missing the season, is also back for another crack.
“We have also stumbled across a few new players, but we’ll leave announcing who they are in the bank for the moment,” Anson said.
“Just hurry up round one – how I wish it started next week.
“We won’t change things a great deal and simply add to basics from last year. I’m very confident that this will get us across the line – we just have to get everyone on board.”
Anson summed his thoughts on the approaching season with: “It’s going to be a great season and something the league has needed. There are going to be a lot of 50-50 games.”
Natimuk United president Adam Blake said the Rams looked forward to big a year and was delighted that ‘activities and fundraisers had kept everyone together in a tight bunch’.
He said subtle committee restructures to better manage money raising and sponsorship and grow the club socially were already bearing fruit.
“The environment is so competitive you can’t just sit back and rely on what’s worked in the past,” he said.
“We’ve been really dedicated during the summer to building those areas. Financial stability, membership and attendance are all critical, as too is being as successful as possible.”
Mr Blake said while the club remained solidly based at Natimuk, he was determined to ensure it maintained and built on a Horsham United connection and its rich history.
“For us it is really important and to emphasise this we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Horsham United’s 1988 premiership later this year,” he said. “It’s taken a bit of time for everyone to get their heads around the merger but it is important to recognise the past.
“The reunion is a chance to celebrate history and to welcome back people who were involved and those who still are.
“In fact, part of a major revamp of our clubrooms includes a dedicated effort to honouring Horsham United’s rich history.”
Mr Blake said early issues surrounding under-17 numbers seemed to have been resolved and the club was in a strong position.
“I’m reluctant to make bold predictions, but I felt last year that if we worked hard to attract a few more players and retain the bulk of players we had we wouldn’t be far off the pace,” he said.
“I think we are going to worry most teams and mix it with the best.”
Natimuk United won’t play a traditional Anzac Day clash this year, based on the event being mid-week and issues in finding a willing opponent. But officials, acutely aware of the club’s history as the region’s football flag-bearer for returned servicemen and women, are considering marking the occasion in some other way.