12 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
EAST BURWOOD is looking to go the next step in Division 4 this season after a preliminary final berth in 2018.
The Rams finished third on the ladder at the end of the home and away season, recording 14 wins and 4 losses before a comprehensive 42-point victory over Forest Hill in the second semi-final.
The club has seen the return of big-bodied midfielders Matthew and Anthony Mariani this off-season, after the duo played integral roles in the Whitehorse Pioneers’ first flag in a decade last year.
The Mariani brothers last played at the Rams in 2013 before four seasons at Templestowe, where Matthew claimed the Paul Edie Medal as the best and fairest player in Division 3 in 2014 and 2016.
Anthony Mariani in action for the Pioneers last season. PHOTO: Davis Harrigan Photography
“They’ve been good – we probably lacked a couple of bigger bodies through our midfield last year so to have those two guys back it’s going to be really handy for us,” senior coach Stuart Wynd said.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old key forward Lewis Neate joins the Rams from VAFA club, Whitefriars. The former Vermont junior played 12 senior matches last season and represented the EFL at under-19 level in 2016.
“He’s going to be a big part for us up there (forward) as well and he’ll complement (Adrian) Gileno,” Wynd said.
“His pre-season’s been good and he moves well for a big fella.”
East Burwood has also added Vermont products Tom Rennie and Kodey Logan, who Wynd says have “added a bit of speed to our group.”
The club has seen the departures of Joel McGown who has returned to Knox and Ryan Jeffrey who has linked up with AFL Queensland club, Noosa.
“We’ve lost two or three that were pretty handy and we think we’ve improved our list,” Wynd said.
“Every other club’s all in the same boat and have recruited really well.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy but provided we stay injury-free we’re going to be competitive against other teams.”
Heading into his second year at the helm, Wynd has been impressed with the numbers on the training track compared to this time last year.
“It’s gone up another notch which is great,” he said.
“We’ve got about 60 players on the list this year which is about seven or eight more than last year.
“In under-19s, we’ve got 30 on the list which is really sensational.
“I think at the start of last year, we had two guys at training under-19s and we sort of slapped them together before the first practice match but this year they’ve all been training and there’s been 20-plus there.
“Hopefully they’re going to have a really improved year – they’ve got some really talented young kids in that group which will hopefully play senior footy in the coming years.”
Wynd featured in East Burwood’s last senior premiership in 2000 and knows of the challenges ahead for his side to break the drought this year.
“The number one goal is to win enough games to play finals and hopefully finish as high up as we can,” he said.
“Grand finals are very hard to win, let alone get to them.
“We just want to play well each week and get enough wins on the board early so we can put ourselves in a good position in the back-half of the year.
“We brought 30 new players into the club last year, whereas this year, not as many.
“I’ve got a better understanding of what guys can do and what they can’t do so that certainly helps.”
Meanwhile, East Burwood is also set to expand into senior women’s and junior girls footy in 2019, and will compete in the Deakin University Eastern Region Women’s and Deakin University Eastern Region Girls competitions respectively.
East Burwood hosts Forest Hill in Round 1 on Saturday, April 6, while the women’s fixture is to be released at a later date.