Dogs’ youthful approach

Sam Graham (Jacob Pattison)351745_02

Harper Sercombe

Off the back of a premiership hangover season Gisborne is hopeful its young group can once again stoke themselves back up the Bendigo Football League ladder.

After the Dogs 2022 premiership, coach Rob Waters resigned with club legend Brad Fox taking his spot, however, with three matches to go in the season, Fox was let go and Waters returned to his post.

Skipper Jack Reaper said it has been comforting with Waters back in the coaching role and will help the youthful Dogs’ list continue to grow in 2024.

“[Waters] was able to build some pretty strong relationships with a lot of players in his tenure from 2020 to 2022, and I think when he re-joined us and coached the last three games it was quite comforting for a lot of the players and the group as a whole,” he said.

“He’s been around local footy for a long time so he understands how it all works and I think the group’s warmed to him pretty quickly.

“We’re fully aware that our 2022 premiership had everything to do with developing our youngsters and getting those kids senior experience. We’re seeing straight away from the pre-season some of the really impressive kids [we’ve got] and what they are able to do and jump up and match our intensity and match our levels of training and some of their running performances have been incredible.

“At Gisborne it sort of always has been not about going out and getting recruits from out of town and spending big money, it’s about putting our time and resources into our kids because it’s evident in our junior premierships and our under-18s going back to back that the talent is there we’ve just got to nurture it.”

That has been evident once again during this off season with player retention at the top of the club’s priority list, while also bringing in a promising young gun from the Essendon District Football League.

“We re-signed a lot of our lost from last year which was the goal because we thought we had a pretty good foundation and some pretty young kids,” Reaper said.

“We’ve been able to get Jackson Cardillo across from Rupertswood which is really exciting and some really young kids that have come across have impressed early.”

While the Dogs finished in seventh last season, Reaper said the ladder doesn’t tell the full story of the club’s season with plenty of positives can still be taken out of what appears lacklustre on paper.

“We obviously had some pretty disappointing results last year and there were a multitude of factors that contributed to that. I think having Pat McKenna back full time and Brad Bernacki back full-time, those boys were VFL interrupted or injury interrupted pretty much the whole year so having those guys back is going to make a massive impact,” he said.

“We had a few games that we lost by a goal or two and if they went the other way we might have been sixth or fifth or had a crack at finals, so we felt we weren’t too far off the mark.

“So we feel the results are heading in the right direction and with a young group hopefully we can take the next step again next year.

“[In 2024] we’ll aim for finals and once you’re in finals anything can happen from there, we’ve got a pretty young group again which is exciting because there’s so much talent coming through.”