By Josh Ward.
It’s been a promising start to the season for Forest Hill, with last Saturday seeing them celebrate a club champion’s milestone game with one of their best performances of 2023.
Up against a Chirnside Park side that sat on equal pegging with them at the start of the round, the Zebras piled on 21 goals on their way to a convincing 87-point victory.
Senior coach Justin Scicluna recently said that the victory was a reward for effort for the side.
“A lot of hard work has been done behind the scenes and we probably haven’t gotten the reward for effort at this stage but Saturday was a testament to the work that all the players and the committee had been putting in behind the scenes,” Scicluna said.
“To be able to get the win not only in the seniors but in the development and U19s made it a fantastic day for the club.”
It was also a big day for Scicluna himself who passed the 200-game milestone for the Zebras playing for the development side.
“I didn’t want anything to be about me over the weekend, it was more (about) the bigger picture of the footy club.
“It’s nice to achieve any milestone and to be able to do it at a club like Forest Hill is an honour and privilege. I’m pretty proud to be able to say I’ve done it at the Zebras and hopefully, there’s a few more games to come.”
The Zebras were able to finish off the game strongly, kicking eight goals to four in the final term to extend their advantage to the final margin.
“The key message at the (final) break was that we didn’t want to relent and we wanted to continue imposing our ruthless attitude on the game.
“They did get a jump on us early in the quarter and kicked a couple of quick ones but to the boys’ credit they responded and they never took their foot off the gas until the final siren”.
The seniors’ third win of 2023 sees the Zebras leapfrog Chirnside Park into the fourth spot on the Division 4 table, with Scicluna adding that it had been a pleasant start to the season.
“We probably had higher expectations as a group. There are a few things that have impacted some things with injuries and whatnot, but that’s not an excuse we use for our results or losses.
“To have three wins on the board and to sit in the top four as we go back into the second encounter with teams I think we’ll take that because it gives us a platform to build on.”
The past offseason saw the Zebras bring in many players to the club, with Scicluna saying that they had slotted into the club seamlessly.
“The boys have fitted in really well, (they’ve) embraced the footy club and the footy club’s embraced them. As the season goes on those guys are gonna grow and get better and be a real asset for us.”
There’d been some new recruits that had impressed Scicluna, including the returning Brad Wylde, ex-Glen Waverley player Ned Bradley along with Daniel Simpson.
“(Wylde and Bradley) definitely have been two of our most consistent performers across the season.
“You’ve also got Daniel Simpson who was one of our recruits that came from the Northern Territory. He’s been great for us, he’s been able to play a variety of roles.”
There have been some that have played at the Zebras in the past few years that have also stood out, including Mitch Hanegraaf.
The ex-Knox forward has kicked 15 in five games, including another bag of four last weekend.
“The thing for Mitch was to be able to get some continuity with his footy and he did put in a decent preseason which I think has really helped his body.
“When he’s up and firing he’s definitely a weapon up forward, he takes the best defender most weeks so takes a bit of pressure off the other forwards”.
Shaun Smith has also slotted into the senior side having spent most of his time at Forest Hill playing in the development side.
“He debuted for us last year and this year hasn’t missed a game and he’s playing on some of the really good forwards. To give an example he played on (Sam) King on the weekend and he kept him goalless.”
With their start to the season, Scicluna believes that the side can improve if they can continue to find consistency across all areas of the park.
“We’re gonna make sure that we take it one week at a time and keep continuing to build on the things that we need to build on at training.
“But we also want to keep reinforcing the things that we’re doing really well and keep making sure they come to the fore on Saturday.”
This weekend sees them take on a Nunawading side that comes off a 100-point game against Surrey Park, with Scicluna set to face former Forest Hill coach Frank Salanitri in the coaches’ box.
“We definitely won’t be taking them lightly, as we know they gave us a big challenge in Round One so we’ll be ready for the first bounce on Saturday.”