By Josh Ward.
The North Ringwood senior men are looking to bounce back after a rough 2022 season whilst the women will look to build on another strong season.
The men’s side will return to the second tier for the first time in nine years after finishing at the bottom in Premier Division last year. But despite finishing with the wooden spoon they showed plenty of signs of promise, winning two games late on in the season.
Robin Nahas will lead the way as coach for his third season. The ex-Richmond and North Melbourne player recently said that whilst he was disappointed at taking the drop at the end of the season, he felt it was the right move for his young side.
“Looking at the make-up of our list and the age demographic going down after (getting these kids) some experience at the level we’ve played in (it) can only put them in good shape when we go down to Division One,” Nahas said.
“That being said, we know that Division One is a quality division and we know that just because we have that experience at the higher division doesn’t mean that we’re automatically gonna have success in this division.”
The majority of the playing list has signed on for this coming season, with Nahas pleased that the younger players had signed on.
“That was pretty much our goal. Going down a division you want to keep together the core players that you have, you don’t want to lose the year or two years of development you had in certain players, and then all of a sudden you have to start again.
“We’ve kept our core, we’ve kept the majority of the players we want to keep…the recruiting team have done an extremely good job in making sure we kept every one. We’ve got a couple of new faces too which should put us in a good position for this year.”
Amongst those new faces includes ex-Port Melbourne sharpshooter Patty Rose. The leading goalkicker for the Borough in their 2011 premiership brings across plenty of experience at the top having played recently with WRFL club Altona and EDFL club Avondale Heights.
“You add a player of that calibre to any side, it’s always gonna improve them. Patty’s the first person to admit that he’s not in the best shape at the moment, but he definitely will come the start of the season.
“His experience, his ability to coach and teach that forward line and be able to structure them up in a way, it’s gonna benefit us going forward.”
Todd Morgan and Daniel John also make their way back to Quambee Reserve, with John returning after over a decade away and Morgan returning after spending the last four years with Scoresby.
“To add a couple of guys that have played a bit of senior football and to add to that demographic we don’t have, that’s the one area of our list we needed to replenish.
“Having those guys come in with that little bit of experience and maturity just helps the younger guys.”
Aaron Fenton and Jack Whelan will also come back into the fold, with Fenton returning to the club after a year away and dual league medallist Whelan signing on having played only three games last year.
“You don’t have to recruit too much in midfield when you can get Aaron Fenton and Jack Whelan back.”
“I get those two guys back into that midfield and that adds to the guys that are coming up like Jackson Braunthal, Liam Taylor and Joel Nathan when he comes back from the VFL. All of a sudden adding those two guys into the mix means that we’ve got a strong midfield.”
They’ve also recruited players from VAFA club Aquinas 19s side last year, with Nahas particularly excited by the looks of Ben Livingstone.
“I’ve got massive wraps on Ben, on all three (signings) really but Ben’s really stood out to me. Patrick (Dunne) has as well, but Ben’s really poised with the footy and he for me is someone that’s gonna be pushing for senior selection for round 1.”
Meanwhile, the women’s side is coming off a solid 2022 season. Winning eight games and only losing to top two sides Rowville and Park Orchards, they made a Preliminary Final before going down to the Hawks by 10 points to end their season.
Julian Hansen will also lead the Saints women’s program for another season, saying that the side was feeling pretty good ahead of this season.
“We were 10 points away from the Grand Final, we were close…we’ve got about a dozen or 15 juniors that have come through that won the flag so things are looking pretty good at the minute,” Hansen said.
Whilst all of the young group coming up to play senior footy excites Hansen, he added there is a select couple he was excited by the most.
“Both the skippers from last year, Ebony Ireland, she’s a really good runner, a good set of hands and a solid kick. And Eliza Wilson, she kicked five goals on Grand Final day playing down forward so that’s a good day out (for her).
“But there’s a lot of girls, they’re pretty solid and they’re well drilled. This is the first time we’ve got a whole bunch of girls coming through the juniors who’ve learnt footy.
“We’ve in the past tried to teach senior players how to play footy whereas we’re starting to see junior players come through that understand the skills and how to play the game. It makes coaching a little bit easier.”
The coach of the premiership 18s side and current North Ringwood player Jake Ireland will join the senior women’s side as an assistant coach, with Hansen excited to have Ireland by his side this coming season.
“It’ll be good to hand the reins over to him from time to time and get some new ideas off him. Clearly he did a great job with the Under 18s last year.”
Majority of the playing list has signed on for 2023, with only the older members of the group not signing on.
“I think it’s the right thing (that they’ve retired). They’re mid-to-late 30s so I think it’s a good thing, particularly when we’re able to top them up and cover them with the juniors.”
They’ve also managed to pick up Rachel Iaucone from VAFA side Aquinas, with Hansen adding that she’ll enhance their strong ruck stocks.
“We’ll have good ruck stocks, we have another girl who’s at Eastern Ranges who’ll also play ruck. Between them two we’ve got the ruck covered.
“She’s only been to two training sessions so far but she’s brought in.”
Ex-Park Orchards star Victoria Galante will also return to the side after missing last season due to pregnancy.
And while he hopes that the side can go one step further, Hansen added that the main objective of the year was to play good footy.
“You would think logic would tell you if we were eight points out of a Grand Final and we’ve got a whole bunch of girls that won a Grand Final coming up from the Under 18s that this team will be better than the 2022 team.
“Unless we have a bolter from somewhere else you would think we’d have a pretty good season. I don’t want to make any calls at the moment, but I would hope we’d play finals and hopefully get into a Grand Final.”