By Ryan Long.
There’s no better time to be a part of the Silvan Football Club as they enter Division Three after their triumph over Surrey Park last year to win the club’s first senior premiership since 2014.
It’s the first time the Cats have played in this division since 2016, a year they won just two games.
Since then, the club has been forced to build up from rock bottom to get itself in a position to win a flag. A top-up of recruits last year saw the club become the team to beat, edging out Surrey Park in the 2022 Division Four Grand Final by twelve points.
Senior Coach Trent Martin not only won his first premiership with the club last year but was also awarded the Best on Field honours with his role down back on Grand Final Day.
It’s a monumental achievement for the small club, sitting on the outs of the Eastern suburbs.
Arriving at the club in 2018, Martin has played an important role on and off the field in turning fortunes around for the Cats alongside club president Charlie Caputo.
“It validates all the hard work, geographically where we are, everything’s hard in Silvan,” Martin said.
“You’ve got to drive past so many clubs to get to us so even recruiting, we’ve only got four or five local kids that live in the area.
“We knew when I got here, Charlie (Caputo) said we had to turn the club around from rock bottom, it was a lot of hard work to rebuild a club over five years, it (Premiership) was a bit relief to be honest.”
Returning to Division Three, the club will be looking to consolidate their spot. Despite a couple of retirements, the Cats have managed to retain most of their list.
Silvan has brought in a couple more experienced players, Mike Smith, having played senior footy at multiple EFNL clubs over the years including South Belgrave where he was a part of the 2019 premiership side.
“We’ve kept majority of the list, we’ve added Mike Smith who’s got a massive rapt in the EFNL,
“He’s one of Chargey’s (James Charge) best mates and he’s made it pretty clear that he’s come over not to wind down his career but coming over to go out with a bang.”
The club also welcomes back Jake Uslar who played 31 games for Silvan back in 2014 and 2015.
“Jake has come back to the footy club, who was a premiership player and a best and fairest winner back in 2014,
“He’s been away for a while and has come back.”
The club is well known for having multiple experienced veterans of the club but the senior side also has a number of key players in their early 20s ready to take their game to a new level in 2023.
“Darcy Turnbull, he’s a kid we got out of Mooroolbark Juniors, he became a real dominant senior player last year, and he’s got fitter and stronger again, he’s the most improved,” Martin said.
“Tyson Bissels, he’s a local kid from the town, he’d bleed for our town. He was in the team of the year and improved again this year.
“Lynch and Low up forward for another year on, they’re all just a year older and stronger and wiser.”
Martin believes Silvan’s chances this year rely on the side’s ability to stay healthy and fit.
“We need to focus on keeping our best players on the park.
“With our depth, our two’s have been okay in the past but it’s always been if we stay fit and healthy, we can take it up to anyone.
“There’s no secret that we’ve got some older players, myself, Charge, Smith… we reckon we’ve got the talent but keeping it on the park is the biggest challenge.”
Silvan will be hoping to replicate Coldstream this year after the Cougars successfully qualified for the 2022 finals series in their first year going back up a division.
Similar to Coldstream, Silvan have made their home ground a tough challenge for opposition sides to travel to, losing just once there in 2022.
“We feel we can make a fortress at home,” Martin said.
“But we just want to go up and have a crack at retaining our position up there and have a real good crack at it.”
The Cats will unfurl the 2022 Division Four flag at home when they take on Whitehorse in the season opener.