Falcons keen for Division 2 challenge

Division 2 awaits Endeavour Hills. 359763 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Southern Football Netball League (SFNL) club Endeavour Hills is confident its young list will stand up to the rigours of Division 2 footy after a momentous 2023 flag.

The Falcons, who defeated Frankston Dolphins by 25 points in the Division 3 grand final last year, are backing internal development to see them immediately compete in Division 2.

The club brought in Fallon Wanganeen, former Narre Warren Magpie Jake Hough and Kansas Varker, who are all set to slot in well, but the excitement stems from seeing the incumbents improving.

“We have a pretty young team generally and it’s about them taking the next step, which I think they can,” coach Matt Peake said.

“There’s enough talent there that they will be up to the next level.

“You have to make sure the guys that are there feel like they’re looked after and hopefully that breeds years of loyalty.

“As a young group, that’s what I’m looking for because they can keep improving year-on-year and put us in a really good place.”

The Falcons’ toughest task in the offseason was finding a replacement for star Sean Van Velsen.

A ruckman who carried a heavy load last season and capped it off with a huge performance on grand final day, Van Velsen is travelling this year and thus unavailable for selection.

Unable to secure a primary ruck, Peake forecasts rotating several players through the position, including emerging talent Tyler Studd, describing him as a “goer with strong follow-up.”

“It will be around doing something slightly different,” Peake said of replacing Van Velsen.

“You can’t just replace a Sean Van Velsen so it will be a mixture of potentially (Studd) and others, because we have a lot of second rucks who can pinch-hit.

“Alex Cann can chop-out in the ruck, Ben Holland can play a role and Fallon Wanganeen has size so they will all be serviceable.”

Seeking to run young blood through the midfield to accompany stars John Rafferty and Liam Hasler, there is an acceptance that the ruck dominance could change the dynamic.

“We’ll have to be quite honest in there and have the discipline and organisation in the midfield,” Peake said.

“It’s something I’ve been highlighting with the group and I’ve seen big steps made in early intraclubs and practice matches, so I’m buoyed by that as well.”

It was the defence which held up so strongly against a fleet-footed Frankston last year, with an injection of forward speed set to accompany that in 2024 as the club looks to make an immediate impact.

“I want to play finals,” Peake said.

“Maybe others think that’s unrealistic, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

“I don’t want to set a limit on what we can achieve but the main thing is to focus on getting better.

“Development is a big thing and it’s going to be so important with a young group this year.”

Endeavour Hills’ season kicks off against a strong Highett outfit at home on Saturday.

Ins: Fallon Wanganeen, Jake Hough, Kansas Varker

Outs: Rohan Scott, Sean Van Velsen