By Trent Callen.
With Doncaster East still trying to make their presence felt in Premier Division, after two interrupted COVID years, the Lions took a big step in the right direction in 2022.
By recapturing near on their 2019 Grand Final winning form in the 1st Division, to seize a finals berth, this time in the top grade.
Although South Croydon were to blame for their early semi-final exit, some key learnings were able to be grasped from the experience, to hold them in good stead as they push for a deeper September run this season.
In 2023, Senior Coach Ryan James will look to set his sights on signs of gradual improvement as the season progresses, beginning with a clear focus on nailing the pre-season objectives as a starting point.
“We had a little bit of a slower start, a longer break in between the season end and coming back after Christmas,” James said.
“We’re probably a week or two behind others, but that was done by design, it’s been pretty good, no injuries so far.”
When running an eye over the squad, James was full of hope in confirming this years list carries more weight from an ability point of view, especially taking into account the two notable absentees returning from their respective injury battles.
“We definitely feel like we have a stronger list this time around compared to last year, obviously we are without Sam Rowe and Zac Clarke.”
“But we feel like we have brought in 7-8 players that can play a really good level of senior footy this year…so we feel like our depth is better, which poses for more questions to be answered at the selection table.”
With the coaching staff tasked with the headache inducing role of mulling over a healthy list, a sense of promise can be attached to reaching their lofty standards and the goals James wishes to kick heading into the new year.
“I think in this competition you have to finish top 2 to give yourself the best chance, and we’re not a footy club that shy’s away from that.”
“I feel like if we can improve a little bit and perhaps just get a better run with injury”
Matching motors with some of the other heavyweights in the competition James acknowledged was a pleasing aspect of 2022, with Park Orchards and Vermont the only two boxes the Lions weren’t able to tick in the win category.
“I think that’s definitely one thing we gained in our first full proper year in Premier Division, winning a final, competing and beating some of the other bigger teams.”
“So the club and the players as a whole have faith, but we do need to tidy up some things, and we’ll be better, but lack of belief isn’t an issue with this group.”
James also commented on the off-field setup, hinting at the fact it is important to maintain a steady core group in the coaching department with the exception of one changing face, largely heading up the developmental side of things.
“It’s pretty similar to last year, but we’ve made the one change, we’ve brought in Angelo Soldatos onboard, who was a Senior Assistant at Bayswater.”
“He’ll look after our development and help out with the seniors also.”
By bolstering their coaching ranks with a more hands on deck approach, the Lions will be more properly equipped with the capacity to tackle specific problem areas.
With Soldatos now at the disposal of Doncaster East, he’ll be able to nurture the growth of the youth brigade working their way up through the ranks and create an environment to foster learning.
The Lions head into the year quietly confident after the aforementioned finals win under their belt last season, but with a strong understanding they’ll need to dig deep in search of improvement.
“We just need to get a little bit better through consistency, that’s going to hold the key,” James said.