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By Jared Beanland.

2022 was an “almost” season for Warrandyte. The strong form of 2021 continued, however momentary lapses in games ultimately cost the Bloods.


Senior Men’s coach Paul Donahoo took a positive attitude to the close misses, and in his retrospect only small things need to be improved upon for a successful 2023.


“I do see it as a success, I think finishing second on the ladder, only team to knock off Waverley, playing in two finals, you would call that a success but the reality is that we lost two finals, both under two goals,” Donahoo said.


“And so you pick that apart over the summer and there’s not much in that. We could have won all finals, Donvale were only knocked off by two points in the Grand Final, ours was close, we were up at one stage, and were down,”


“We let Donvale kick 8 goals in the first 15 or something. They’re really small things. So it was successful, but yes, fell short of where we want to be,”


“I think it’s just moments of concentration, small lapses… stringing four quarters together would have seen us at our very best, I think we saw that throughout the year, but not consistent enough to win premierships, and that’s what we’re there for. So I think picking that up and having a focus on that will help us in ’23 hopefully.”


After a hands-off approach to the pre-season last year, a similar mindset was brought with a different approach during the current pre-season.


“We did pre-Christmas, we had one night training and then a bonding night. We’ve also brought a lot of players into the club this year as well, so we were just trying to strengthen relationships off-field. There was a bit more of a focus on fun and relationships pre-Christmas, but then once we ticked over the new year we really got stuck into it. The good thing is, it seems like we’re building week-by-week, and we’re really seeing a difference each week, and that’s a real positive. We definitely haven’t been as hands-off this year, because we know we’ve got a bit of work to do. But pre-Christmas, I think that time is still the players’ time and they need that. But once you get back, it’s just off we go. And you’ve only got 9 weeks from when you start training to when you start the season, so you can’t afford to take your foot off the accelerator then.”


A new-look Warrandyte is on the cards for season 2023. Recruitment has brought in Donahoo is anticipating a stronger culture because of this, which should translate to fewer lapses in vital moments.


The reality is that we’ll go into Round 1 this year with probably half our team different to last year, which is a really big turnaround. But I think the positive is that everyone we’ve brought in has been brought in from people in the club,”


“So we haven’t gone and gotten any strangers to us, they’re people who are known to people who play with us, and will fit within our culture and our demographic of what we’re after in that space. I think there’s a collective coming in, there’s gonna be some very exciting players, and some players who’ve played at a higher level as well.”


The highly-potent forward line of the Waverley Blues took Division Three by storm last year, and Donahoo hints at tending towards that model at his own club this year, without necessarily overhauling the team’s on-field identity.


“Yeah we will have a pretty potent forward line this year I believe, you only have to look at what Waverley did last year, and that forward six that they had, and the dominance that they showed throughout the year.


“I think what we’ll be able to produce up there this year will be on par with what they did last year, hopefully. I think from a gameplan and a look, and feel of who we are this year, yes there will be differences because of the personnel change.


“We’ve picked up a couple of key position players, and we’ve probably lacked a bit of height in certain areas, so we’re just able to tinker with things a little bit. But in general we’ll still be the same old Warrandyte, just with a few little things that will hopefully catch people out.”


Looking ahead to the season, Paul has high expectations for the division, and rates most, if not all of Warrandyte’s opposition as a threat to their premiership chances.


“I could probably rattle them all off, but the reality is that Donvale have recruited very well, and have a lot of Premier Division experience in this year, and they were two points off going into Division Two so that just says they’ll be the benchmark again, and they’ll be right up there.”


“Coldstream have added a lot of depth, so they can only improve on where they were, and they’ll be smarting from going out in the first round of finals last year. And then you look at the two new ones coming into the comp, Silvan have retained a lot of their list, and added Mike Smith in… I’ve never played up at their ground, but from all reports they’ll be pretty hard to beat up there.”


“An eight-team comp is tricky, and you’ll get a good game each week, but look from last years finalists obviously us, Coldstream, and Donvale, and even Ferntree Gully are adding some talent… as I said I could probably name them all.”


Even in such a potentially tight field, Donahoo’s sights are set on ultimate glory, and a promotion to the higher divisions – something the Bloods haven’t tasted in a while.


“This year that (a Premiership) is what we’re after, we’re not gonna hide from that, I know everyone’s after that.


“The reality is the club hasn’t won one since 2015, 2019 we played finals, and got knocked out without winning one. Last year we got knocked out without winning a final. So a Premiership’s the goal, but we haven’t won a finals game since 2015, so ticking that one off is probably number one, and once you get there it’s anyone’s game as they say. But Division Two is where we want to be, so we’ll do anything we can to get there.”


For the first time in the club’s history Warrandyte will be fielding a senior women’s team.


Leading the charge into this new territory is a man with plenty of coaching experience across several different areas.


Tom Woodward has coached juniors at North Ringwood in the past, along with doing coaching in cricket and basketball. In this new venture he has begun building a unified, dedicated group of women for season 2023.


“It is really exciting, it’s good to meet all the new faces, and see some people I’ve known for a while, I’ve also got some family members and friends playing in the team as well. It’s great to see what these girls are going through to get the team up and running,” Woodward said.


“Pre-season’s been good, it’s been gaining momentum with each week. We keep getting more and more coming down, everyone is buying in every week. It’s been awesome. It’s made my life ten times easier, that’s for sure.”


“Everyone’s super competitive, everyone wants this, and to work hard. We’ve got a good mix of those who have played footy and those who haven’t. A lot of them played juniors for Warrandyte, so they’ve got that competitive edge. And then the ones who haven’t played are coming from other sports, so have that competitive edge anyway.”


The culture of Warrandyte is mostly home-grown, as Woodward puts it. One player in particular was pointed to by Woodward as embodying the enthusiasm and energy Warrandyte aim to put forward in season 2023.


“Most of the girls are home-grown heroes, everyone who’s come up through the junior period.”


“There’s one or two who’ve come from other clubs, who are really exciting and have stepped up to the plate. One of the girls, Georgia D’Amico, she’s come from Spotswood, but she only went over there because Warrandyte couldn’t field a women’s team in the years gone by.”


“She’s been pushing, pushing, and pushing to get this women’s team up for years, and she finally got her wish. So she’s as excited as anyone. And she’s made my life easy – we’ve got a Facebook group chat, and she’s been putting polls up to see who’s going to be at training, getting everyone motivated and being super positive. It’s awesome.”


The willingness shown throughout the pre-season is exactly what Tom wants to be represented once the season starts. It’s a great start for the team, and will hopefully translated to on-field performances throughout the year.


“The idea is, I can’t force you to be here. If you want to be here, you’ll be here. And that’s what everyone wants, everyone wants to be here with us, and come along for the ride. Which is our main focal point, really.”


“One of the objectives is that we’ll be competitive. We’ll definitely be competitive. That’s the goal, we’re not just here to be pushed around. At the same time we’ll play hard and play fair. We’re just here to play footy and prove ourselves to everyone”.

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