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By: Joseph Arthur
FOLLOWING heavy recruiting, Fairpark senior coach Sean Stanton is hoping for a top four finish in 2019, but understands there is plenty of work to be done in order to end the club’s decade-long finals drought.
Fairpark has been the beneficiary of up to 11 of ex-Southern league club Mount Waverley’s players joining their ranks for its upcoming Division 4 campaign.
Stanton praised the new recruits for their quick transition into the club and believes this could go a long way towards his side improving on their seven win and 11 loss 2018, in which it finished seventh overall.
“The transition from Mount to us has been really seamless and really good, it makes it easier for us when they’re a terrific bunch of blokes who essentially just want to play footy together,” Stanton said.
“Michael Keem in particular, he’s been outstanding throughout our preseason, his football knowledge and leadership has been terrific.
“Another fellow Ben McLeod has come across as well, he’s looking really fit at the minute, really strong and what we’ve seen from him has been outstanding.”
Ben McLeod is coming off a season where he featured in Mount Waverley’s best players 14 occasions in 15 appearances.
2016 Mountain Lions premiership players Thomas Petronik, Matthew Jeffries and Alex Mullucks round out the recruits, alongside four-time Southern league best and fairest winner, Jarrod Wilkin and returning club stalwart Zac Zaloumis from Nunawading.
Stanton also referenced Wantirna South recruit Steve Colosimo as looking “really good and really sharp”.
“They’ve all come in really good shape and they’ve all come wanting to improve which has been pleasing,” Stanton said.
“They’ve bonded really well with the current playing group and everyone seems really up and about at the moment which is really good.”
Meanwhile, James Hall has departed the club having moved overseas while Hayden DeGraaf has relocated interstate.
After injuries and fitness levels played a role in the outcome of some close games last season, Stanton believes that a combination of recruiting, hard work and a stronger under-19s squad will address Fairpark’s depth issues.
“We’ve worked really hard in the off-season, the numbers at training have been really good,” Stanton said.
“We’re looking to put together a fairly strong under-19s team this year which is pleasing, so things are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Despite the strong signs, the third-year coach is wary of the competition and is under no illusion of where his side currently stands based on last year’s efforts.
“Clubs that finished ahead of us have actually recruited really well, you’ll find that people think you lose two teams and immediately everyone becomes a finals contender, we’re aiming to play finals, but we also need to be realistic and we’ve got a little bit ahead of us,” Stanton said.
“Silvan, the in-form team towards the back of the year, they’ve recruited really well, East Burwood made a preliminary final, they’ve recruited really heavily.
“Every team at this point in the year wants to play finals and we’re no different to that but we’re under no illusions that the only way we can get there is through a lot of hard work and a bit of luck.”
Stanton looks to his stronger players as tone-setters for the rest of the club, expecting them to set a good example.
Star forward James Gough was praised for “having a terrific pre-season”, as he looks to back up his 40 goals last year in 16 games, while skipper Jesse Pearce has also “led from the front”.
Gough in action last season. PHOTO: Fairpark Facebook page.
“He (Pearce) is naturally a fit guy and he’s probably the fittest now that he’s ever been,” Stanton said.
Stanton is determined to make sure that his squad puts its best foot forward from the start and maintains that standard as the season progresses.
“Inconsistency has been my frustration in the couple of years I’ve been here, even little things like training not being at an acceptable standard,” he said.
“That’s all changed this year, so hopefully all those little improvements will hold us in good stead to make us a top-four team.
“From a list point of view, our list is the strongest it’s been definitely over my time at the club, this being my third season and even the strongest list we’ve had in maybe five or six years.
“As a whole we look to be really well-balanced, we have depth in all areas and we’ve added some real class and polish, which is probably something we’ve lacked.
“Overall, we want to play a consistent and competitive brand of football.
“We don’t want to see the ups and downs from previous years and I think that if the blokes continue to buy-in on what we’ve been working on, we’ll have a really successful year and be playing finals footy.”
Fairpark opens its season against Croydon North-MLOC at Hughes Park on Saturday, April 6.