By Jared Beanland.
After tough 2022 in Premier division the mission statement for Doncaster this year can be summed up by one word: improvement.
The Sharks ended 2022 with a record of five wins, and 13 losses, and while they took it up to a couple of the top sides – even defeating Rowville in round 8 – plenty of sides got a hold of them.
Chris Annakis enters his second year as coach and hints at big changes following a disappointing debut year.
“That probably wasn’t the year we were after, so our big main focus was to make sure we weren’t in the same position when we fast forward six to twelve months from there,” Annakis said.
“Which I think we’ve done this year, we’ve really turned our list around and turned our list over, and now we’re in a pretty good spot.”
The Sharks’ aim at a successful 2023 season had begun long before the book had been closed on 2022.
“We realised we had to go hard on the recruiting front and get some more help around the place. We started our recruitment drive early on last season, we knew more work had to be done, and things have gone our way with a few players, and we’re pretty lucky to have them on board.”
Doncaster has added a slew of talent to their list during the off-season, such as Declan Everett who played eight games with Beaconsfield last year, and has had experience playing football all over the country. They’ve also addressed a lack of speed with names such as Lewis Thompson and Darcy Chellew.
“We’ve had Declan Everett come in, who’s a midfielder for us, who can break lines,
“Lewis Thompson has come over from Kyneton who’s a smooth-moving half-back/midfielder,
“Darcy Chellew, who’s come on board as an outside runner… Jayden Buston, who’s a league Best and Fairest up in the Cairns league and has come down to test himself at this high local level, so we’ve actually brought a bit in who I think will really complement our list.”
Recruits are one thing, however, Annakis’s optimism about the 2023 season doesn’t end there; experienced Doncaster players are ready to step up and take the team to a new level.
“Toddy Vander Haar has had a massive pre-season, he’s moving well, we’ve done a fair bit of testing and he’s actually right up there in the speed work, and strength stuff,
“I think Kyle Viccars will be set for a big season too, he’s got himself even fitter and stronger, so we’re excited with what he can do for us,
“I think what’s moved on has opened the door for a lot of the younger guys to speak up and take leadership roles and that’s exciting to see them to see them develop in that aspect as well.”
Not only had Annakis taken on board the role of coaching last season, but he had also done it while still donning the boots, and doing what he’s done best at Doncaster for over a decade – playing.
This is a position he will take up once again in 2023.
“I think we’re always learning, no matter if it’s your first year or tenth year of whatever you’re doing, last year was the first year of me doing it, so I had a fair bit of support around me, which I got,
“That first year was about putting together what exactly I needed to make my job easier in regards to support staff, assistant coaches, on-field, and off-field support also,
“It made it a lot easier for me to find that balance between playing and coaching, and trying to direct the boys.”
The Sharks understand that improvement is required, yet to Annakis, the focus of the task is clear.
“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, or play it down… we found ourselves in a fair few games last year but just didn’t have the ability to stay in the contest for the full four quarters, which made us slip away.
“There were a couple of sides that took care of us pretty easily, so our focus moving forward is to sustain our good footy for a longer period of time. All we’re looking to do is improve and we know how important the start of the season is, so if we can have a couple of early ones we know momentum can really carry us through,
“So in a word: improvement, but in saying that we’re not going to set a limit, or set a minimum. We’re just looking to go onwards and upwards.”