37 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: Daniel Cencic
IT’S a clean slate at Chirnside Park under incoming coach Dave Newlands.
The new Panthers mentor is keen to embrace the challenge ahead in season 2019, with the club competing in Division 3, the EFL’s fourth tier under the competition restructure.
Chirnside Park finished 12th in Division 3 last season with no wins.
“It’s basically a fresh start for the whole club from where they finished last year and we’re really looking forward to getting into it,” Newlands said.
“I think also with the new players coming in and the existing players, and a bit of a change as well, everyone knows it’s a fresh start and a new beginning, a new division.”
Ruckman Grattan Stephens and midfielder Ben Slattery have joined the Panthers from Mooroolbark, along with Jon Egan, Ben Higgins and Josh Clavant, reuniting with Newlands who served as an assistant coach under Paris Harvie at the Mustangs for four seasons.
Stephens will assume the role of playing-assistant coach, with Newlands hoping the big-man can kick-start the club’s engine room this season.
“I coached ‘Grat’ at Mooroolbark and he’s great to work with,” Newlands said.
“He’s a class ruckman so he’ll hopefully give us first use (of the football) and a good leader on the ground as well – a good older head to have out on the ground with trying to build the club.
“They (the Mooroolbark recruits) are all mates and they just want to enjoy their footy and they were pretty keen to come across and have a good year.”
2016 reserves best and fairest winner Heath Chamberlain has also re-joined the club after a year at Yarra Junction, followed by teammate Shane Hall who played 10 senior matches last season.
Meanwhile, the teachings of ex-Mooroolbark coach Paris Harvie have been invaluable in the transition to senior coaching for Newlands.
“He (Paris) is great to learn off – just how to manage players and also communication and he’s the best at it, especially with developing a young list as well,” Newlands said.
Club president Adrian Birt has been impressed with what Newlands has brought to Kimberley Reserve.
“Dave’s come across with a wealth of experience and knowledge and we’ve been getting very good numbers on the track,” Birt said.
“Certainly we’ll be better than last year, and Dave and all his assistants and the new recruits are going along fine and the club’s going along well.”
While the club has seen the departure of Cain Eisele (Coldstream) and Jai Hardwick (Mornington Peninsula league), it has retained the core of its group with Newlands confident of the playing list’s dynamic.
“A lot of the guys have stayed,” Newlands said.
“With what we’ve lost and what we’ve brought in I think it balances out pretty well – I’d like to think we’ve covered all bases.”
The key objective to 2019 for Newlands is simple.
“It’s just improvement, and to see improvement within the ball movement,” he said.
“Also with the players that we’ve brought across, and the core group that are already there, I think the results will go our way at certain times.
“As long as there’s improvement, that’s what we’re looking at.
“At the end of the day there’s no expectations – we know where we want to be but as long as we see improvement, everyone’s pretty happy.”
The club has also received a boost with Chirnside Park set to field two senior women’s teams this season off the back of the AFL South East commission’s decision to transfer the club’s top-tier team into the Deakin University Eastern Region Women’s competition this week.
The move means a more integrated club for the Panthers, with the women being able to play locally, as well as less demands on club volunteers with all teams based at the one venue. The move is also expected to welcome back past women’s players to the fold.
“We’re trying to create a one-club policy among the girls, women’s, the juniors and the senior group, and it’s all looking really positive,” Newlands said.
Chirnside Park hosts the Whitehorse Pioneers in Round 1 on Saturday, April 6, while the senior women’s fixture is to be released at a later date.