By Ryan Long.
The Pioneers Senior Women’s side proved themselves to be a worthy competitor in Premier Division, whilst the Senior Men’s second half of the season sees the side facing relegation.
Ladder Position: 8th (3-15, 75.91%)
Leading Goalkicker: Daniel Horvat (32 goals)
Despite some positive signs in the first half of the season, the Pioneers fell away in the back half of the year with ten straight losses to finish the season.
Whitehorse welcomed former Chandler Medallist and ex-Montrose star, Andrew Haining to the club, taking over the role of senior coach. They started the year having a couple of really impressive wins against strong outfits and even managed to challenge eventual Premiers, Donvale, away from home, only just falling short by six points.
The side had a bit of bad luck on the injury front, a quality player such as James Fasan was sorely missed, managing just four games. Defensively, the Pioneers were opened up a lot more in the back end of the season, conceding a couple of very high scores.
Finishing the season last on the Division Three ladder, Whitehorse have been relegated to Division Four ahead of the 2024 season.
Andrew Haining’s impact on the field proved to be crucial, polling well in the league’s best and fairest. In the eight matches that Whitehorse had covered by premier data, the star ruckman averaged 105 ranking points per game.
Jayson Fabris was one of the Pioneers’ most consistent players and was listed in the best a total of 13 times from 18 games.
Daniel Horvat and Thomas Young were influential in hitting the scoreboard, combining for 62 goals. Horvat’s biggest haul of the season came in their Round Eight victory over Silvan, finishing the afternoon with seven majors.
Best Win: Round Four – Whitehorse 10.17 77 def. Ferntree Gully 11.6 72 @Springfield Park
The biggest scalp of the season must go back to their Round Four victory over eventual Grand Finalists, Ferntree Gully.
With a quarter to play, the Pioneers trailed by three goals. Needing a comeback, the likes of Luke Morando, Edward Sim and Jayson Fabris all stood up in the final quarter as Whitehorse ran over the top of the Eagles, keeping them goalless.
Playing Coach Andrew Haining was superb, with 19 disposals, five clearances, 52 hitouts and a goal, inspiring his team to an impressive win.
The Pioneers return to Division Four in season 2024, but there are still a lot of positives to take into next year. At full strength, they can certainly hit the scoreboard. Despite having just three wins for the year, they were the fifth-best attacking team in the competition.
They’ve got the right man for the job in Andrew Haining, they just need to give him the time with the list to consolidate the current side while adding to their list before the 2024 season.
In a seven-team competition, I’d expect the Pioneers would be strong enough to feature in the finals series. Having not featured in a finals series since the club’s Division Four premiership in 2018, this would be a big step forward for the club if they can manage it.
Ladder Position: 5th (5-7, 75.00%)
Leading Goalkicker: Georgia Fisher (13 goals)
Fantastic first season for the Pioneers, intergrading into the Premier Division after last year’s format of Prem A and Prem B.
The side was coming off a history making 2022 season campaign, winning the premiership over Donvale, the club took on a new challenge in Premier Division. Winning just one of their first seven games for the season, there was still a lot to like about the Pioneers. A 1-6 record wasn’t a great accurate reflection of the way they were playing.
They had multiple competitive losses, including their Round Five match against the eventual premiers, the Eastern Devils.
However, they came firing home at the back end of the year, winning four of their last five matches, knocking off two finals contenders in that period. The Pioneers finished with a record of 5 and 7, just missing out on a finals place due to percentage.
Superstar Georgia Fisher celebrated another fantastic season, listed in the Team of the Year for Premier Division. Her spot in the forward line was well deserved, an exciting talent, finished with 13 goals from 10 games.
Monique Trusler also featured in the Team of the Year, listed in the centre. Trusler missed a few games, playing eight for the season but her impact every week was very important to the side’s winning chances. It was no coincidence that she played in all five of the Pioneers wins, including a three-goal game against Mount Evelyn in the final round of the season.
Reliable in defence, Bridget O’Connell had another great season while the likes of Phoebe Joy and Abbey Tanner were both consistent across the season.
Best Win: Round 11 – Whitehorse 7.4 46 def. South Croydon 5.3 33 @Springfield Park
The club had more dominant wins throughout the year, including two matches against Donvale and their big win over Mount Evelyn in the final game of the season. But Whitehorse’s Round Eleven come-from-behind victory over South Croydon stands out as their best result of the season.
At every break, the Pioneers trailed, including a 16-point deficit at half time. Whitehorse kept South Croydon goalless in the second half, the Bulldogs managing just the two behinds. At the other end of the ground, they piled on five goals, four coming in the final term to run away 13-point winners.
Georgia Fisher was fantastic, finishing with three goals. Margaret Kershaw and Gabriella De Angelis both finished with two goals each, having strong games.
The club are in the process of selecting a new senior coach for the 2024 season. The first thing they’ll need to achieve is selecting a new coach to take over the reins next year.
The club has quite a few VFLW-listed players such as Margaret Kershaw, Monique Trusler and Gabriella De Angelis, which means the side isn’t at full strength each week. In those matches that they did have most of those players available, particularly at the end of the season, Whitehorse were able to match it with anyone.
The Pioneers also competed in the 2023 Bendigo Bank Netball season. Their one team competed in Division Five, finishing ninth with two wins for the season. Amy Gleed had a great year with 110 goals, the Pioneers leading goal shooter.
The side improved as the year went on, winning both of their matches in the last six rounds.