By Nick Creely
It’s no secret that community sport, and all of the benefits it brings along with it is going to be a vital part of the way Victoria moves forward out of Covid-19.
And the 2021 local football season is going to be one of the most important in recent memory as clubs and leagues once again prepare to take to the field and put 2020 behind them.
The significance of this is not lost on Beaconsfield coach Mick Fogarty, who after signing at his new club in 2020, is once again preparing to shape his list for the AFL Outer East Premier Division ahead of what he describes as an ‘enormous’ year of local football.
“Next year is an enormous year for local football, in regards to sponsorship, player movement and salary caps, but I could probably talk about that all day” he told the Gazette.
“It’ll be really interesting how it pans out and how the clubs attack the season.
“It’s all pretty exciting.”
Fogarty, one of the most recognisable and respected coaches in community football after his dual premiership success with Noble Park as coach in the powerful Eastern Football League, as well as back-to-back flags with ROC (now Officer) in the mid 90’s, said he was delighted to tackle 2021 with the exact same coaching group the club signed for 2020.
Ryan Hendy, Glen Robinson, Craig Mulcock, Rod Walker and Darren Hamilton are all locked away at Holm Park in what is a highly impressive coaching group, and one sure to bring stability to a group well and truly building strongly for a tilt at a flag.
“We’re thrilled to have signed all of our coaches from 2020 – it gives the club real stability in that way I reckon,” he said.
“We just got through a pre-season, got to know the players, and get a feel for the club, and bang, we had to stop.
“And now we’re sort of starting again, but we’re probably ahead of what we were last year for obvious reasons, but we’ve got great knowledge of the group and where the list is at.”
One of the Eagles’ assistant coaches, champion Doveton footballer Ryan Hendy, not only brings a wealth of football knowledge to the table, but he has also helped lure a star to the club – midfielder Nick Battle.
Battle, another ex-star from the Doves, and the Doveton Eagles in the Southern footy league will call Holm Park home in 2021 after putting pen to paper after initially signing with Narre Warren last season.
It’s a signing almost certain to give the Eagles an extra layer of class and match-winning capabilities, adding to a list already glittered with plenty of experience, and the right amount of youth.
“He’s got a really, really strong relationship with Ryan Hendy, and we were really close to landing him before he did sign at Narre Warren,” Fogarty said.
“For that relationship he’s got, to be able to get him over to our footy club is enormous, he’s class – we’re thankful that Ryan was able to get him over the line.”
Aside from the boom signing of Battle, the Eagles have also recruited James McNamara, welcomed back Jamie Plumridge and have signed Jake Stuart who played with Narre Warren in 2019.
And crucially, Fogarty said the core group, including ex-St Kilda player Brandon White who signed at the club in 2020, the likes of Jake Bowd, Matthew Johnson, Daniel Johnston, Damien Johnston, Jack Docherty and Tylah Stokoe among many others are all locked away for season 2021 in what he believes is an extremely exciting list with plenty to give.
“Our list and our core group have signed – when I got to the footy club, we had a few that went to Nar Nar Goon and so forth so there was a bit of movement,” he said.
“But our core group, our leaders have signed and we’re thrilled with that and thank them.
“I’m just thankful these guys have stuck fat with the footy club over the years – the footy club and all local clubs are rewarded by it, so it’s a great opportunity that all coaches and players can give back to their footy club.”
Fogarty also confirmed that ex-Gold Coast Sun Jack Hutchins will also still be a Beaconsfield-listed player if he remains in the VFL at the Casey Demons.
With the Eagles boasting one of the most impressive junior football programs anywhere around, Fogarty said that while his list is shaping nicely, the youth that has been steadily developing, and flourishing for a number of years could be ready to take the next step in the senior side in 2021.
“The club is blessed to have that group, and have that footy program put in place, before I got there obviously” he said.
“My young fella’s gone through the juniors right through, so I do know what this program is about.
“And the talent is absolutely enormous, it’s going to hold the club in good stead heading into the future.
“Those kids, we played a couple of them in the practice match which is good for them.
“I’m a big believer in giving kids an opportunity, I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been, and I’m looking forward to transitioning them at the appropriate time.”