25 DAYS TO GO | EFL Media will be previewing each club ahead of the 2019 season with the #InFocus2019 series, all thanks to Yarra Valley Water & Choose Tap.
By: Tash Gunawardana
MULGRAVE captain Dean Siakoulis is determined his side can be in finals contention at season’s end.
Siakoulis believes the club will see significant improvement on 2018, where it finished ninth in Division 2 with four wins and 14 losses.
The club’s first victory came against Mooroolbark in Round 13, winning four of its last six games.
The Lions will compete in the EFL’s third tier this season – Division 2 – after suffering relegation.
“We had a lot of young kids and they hadn’t been exposed to a lot of footy (last season),” Siakoulis said.
“As the season wore on, they started to get accustomed to what it took to play seniors and they matured into footballers that we could rely on come late in the season.
“It just took them longer to develop into senior footballers.”
Siakoulis spoke on the importance of bringing in players to strengthen their backline and midfield this season.
“We recruited a bit better than we did last year,” he said.
“We picked up a key forward and a key back from Xavier (Old Xaverians, VAFA) in Nick Pirrie and Teddy Watkin, Eddie Wilson (Beaconsfield, SEFNL), Nic Holding (has) come down from the country (Central Highlands league, Waubra).”
“I think those two (Wilson and Holding) will strengthen our midfield group as well.”
The Lions see the departure of two key players this off-season, with Perry Cole relocating to Canberra for work commitments and Tim Knowles lodging a clearance to join the Gippsland league last week.
Cole has been a regular feature in the Lions’ line-up since debuting in the seniors in 2014, with the 22-year-old playing all senior matches since 2015. Knowles played 11 games last year, as he battled with a shoulder injury.
“I think Perry Cole is probably going to be a bigger loss, because he was a mainstay in our side for a lot of years,” Siakoulis said.
There will be a host of players to watch out for in the Lions’ side this season.
“I think you can always look to Seb Henderson to set you up from down back (and) Cohen Howell to hold up our backline,” Siakoulis said.
“Adam Booth up forward is always a handful for opposition defenders (and) blokes like Sam Kassianou and Sean Lester through the midfield will be there to be watched.”
Siakoulis believes he is leading a side that is capable of finishing in the top four at the end of the season, after the Lions last played finals in 2014.
“Our expectation is to play finals and anything less than finishing in the top four will be considered a failure for this side this year,” Siakoulis said.
“Once you make the top four anything can happen from there.”
Mulgrave opens its 2019 season against Boronia at Tormore Reserve on Saturday, April 6.