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By Josh Ward

The Pioneers men’s side will be looking to build on a promising season while the women will look at testing themselves in the new Premier Division this year after a historic premiership.


In an even and competitive Division Three, the Pioneers men’s side fought gallantly throughout the season. Finishing in sixth with six wins, five of those wins came at their home of Springfield Park, including against finalists Donvale and Coldstream.


Former Chandler Medallist Andrew Haining has signed on as playing coach following the departure of Duncan Jones. He comes down to Springfield Park after over 200 games as well as a premiership with the Montrose senior side.


Haining recently said that after nearly two decades in the Montrose junior and senior systems he was excited about a fresh start in a new division as well as coaching a young side.


“It was time for me to move on from playing at that level and it was either coach or not play at all. The opportunity with Whitehorse came up and everything aligned really well so figured I’d have a crack at it and give it a go,” Haining said.


“I like the fact they’ve got a really young list. What excited me the most about taking on my first coaching role is taking more of a younger list, I didn’t want to take an older list as my first go.


“Having 12-13 guys who could be playing regularly in our senior team that are under 23 years of age is really exciting for me. I want to be here for a while, not just come in and then leave again, I want to put my imprint on the footy club and the team.”


Majority of the playing list from last year has signed on for 2023, with only Andrew Padbury, Jake Harkins and James Perrin departing the side. Haining added that he was pleased the young group wanted to commit for this coming season.


“They’re all really good mates so they all get along off the field as well. I think that’s really important when you’re setting up a club and a side to make sure that the players get along off the field, if you’re getting along off the field you’re going to get along on it.”


They’ll also be bolstered by the return of Ed Sim and Thomas Young to the club after both spent the past two seasons at different clubs.


Dual Pioneers B&F winner Sim returns after playing all but one game for East Malvern in 2021/22 whilst Young comes back after playing eight senior games as well as 18 reserves games with VAFA Premier side Old Trinity.


“What they both bring is a lot of presence and leadership on the ground. Because we are a younger side we identified players we wanted to bring back to the club or bring in, it wasn’t about their playing ability but who they are as a person.


“And they’re both really great people and great club people as well so it was really important to bring that calibre of person back to our football club.”


Rudi Hunt also joins the side after playing 71 reserves games plus 12 senior games with Premier Division club Park Orchards whilst ex-Montrose junior Troy Dynes returns after a year away from footy.


“We’ve got a couple of guys that have also come across from Doncaster and Donvale. We had an intra club (not that long ago) at Yarra Glen, there’s a lot of guys thickening our soup (in terms of) putting pressure on people for selection.


“I could comfortably see 30-35 different players potentially have a shot playing one’s, I think it’s really exciting that there’s competition for spots and it’s not just gonna be desperate if we do end up with a couple of injuries, next man up I’m gonna be super confident in.”


Despite third division being one of the more even divisions in the EFNL senior men’s comp once again Haining has hope that the Pioneers can be right up there come finals.


“One thing (from last year was) our away games weren’t up to scratch, that’s the (main) focus, how we can try and get a few more away wins mid-season. But I definitely think we can be as competitive as any other team this year…”


“We know that finals (aren’t) gonna be played on postage stamps so we need to make sure that we’re playing a good brand of footy that holds up on a home oval like Springfield but also holds up on bigger grounds, (which) if we’re lucky enough to play finals we’re ready for that.”


The women’s program come into 2023 fresh off their first ever women’s premiership in only their third season. Having taken the long way to the big dance after finishing as the Premier B minor premiers, they managed to win the Grand Final by just one point over Donvale.


Dominic Taleritti will lead the way once again, this time as co-head coach alongside 2022 runner Jarred Sund. The latter was previously an assistant playing coach with VAFA side Aquinas OC and has also played with EFNL clubs Forest Hill and East Ringwood.


Sund recently said that he was excited and felt ready to take on the head coaching role alongside Taleritti this coming season.


“I was involved pretty heavily with training towards the end of last year, I was getting down there at least every Thursday and helping them go through drills and stuff like that,” Sund said.


“It’s kind of a natural progression in a sense. The club approached me and said “did (you) want to do it” and I said yeah I’d love to, I wanted to join forces with Dom because he’s such a good person and really good for the group and the club.”


All of the playing list from the 2022 premiership squad has signed on for this year, with Sund adding that they were excited about competing in Premier Division this season.


“It’s obviously gonna be another challenge, but from what they achieved last season I think it’s a natural progression for them as well. It’ll be really interesting to see how it goes.


“There’s definitely a lot more challenge playing teams from Premier A, I’m sure they’ve continued to develop as well. But the group seems pretty excited to take on that next challenge…


“(With the group signing on) it means we can continue what we were building on and managed to achieve and then to get the buy-in again, it means that we’re doing something right.”


They’ll also be bolstered by some girls coming across, including Box Hill Hawks VFLW-listed duo Amanda Tessari and Monique Trusler.


Ex-Western Bulldogs & VU Western Spurs veteran Tessari played 15 games (including the grand final) last year for the Eastern Devils whilst Trusler has spent the past two seasons with Park Orchards, playing 23 games and kicking 21 goals along the way.


“It’s just another string to our bow in terms of having them play, but also they’re so good for the development of everybody else because they are part of that next step. They’ve always got good attitude and bring a lot to the group.”


There’ve also been other girls that’ve signed on as well as some that have come from other junior programs that are currently training with the Pioneers senior side, with Sund particularly excited about the looks of a few.


“There’s obviously Sienna Talleriti, but we may not be lucky enough to have her playing for us this year because of how good she is and the commitment that comes with a player of skill. (She’s playing) Vic Metro and Oakleigh this year, which will take up a lot of her time…


“And then we have Roxy Maslin who’s signed on from Richmond Junior Football Club, she’s in the lower age bracket but she’s been training because she’s pretty keen to try and make a name for herself and advance her development.”


Whils it will be a challenge for the Pioneers heading into a new Premier Division, Sund believes the side is up for it.


“I think in terms of facing the Wolves, the Devils and South Croydon it’s exciting to see how we go against them. Obviously we’ll back ourselves in and do whatever we can to get across the line against them, but they are proven strong clubs.


“Doing well, giving it a red-hot crack against them and trying to consolidate our position in the top division is a goal, any scalps we can take along the way is gonna be awesome and hopefully it reinforces what we’re doing.”

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