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By: Daniel Cencic
A SWAG of recruits have arrived at Walker Reserve this off-season in Wantirna South’s bid to return to finals action.
The Devils finished 2019 in ninth position in Division 1 with six wins, 11 losses and a draw, however just six points separated ninth to fifth on the ladder.
Entering his second season at the Devils’ helm, senior coach Steve Cochrane says finals are on the agenda as the club looks for its first appearance since 2016.
“We haven’t played finals for three years so our aim is just to make the finals and if we can do that, it’s sort of like another season as the cliché goes,” Cochrane said.
“Our focus is to build a good connection between the boys and we’ve been able to have a pretty strong start to the pre-season.
“That (finals) will be a pass mark for us, that’s certainly the aim.”
Headlining the recruits is Marcus Jordan, who makes the move from local rival, Knox.
Jordan topped the goal-kicking at Knox across the past two seasons and featured prominently in the Falcons’ 2017 second-tier premiership, kicking five majors in a best on ground performance.
The 27-year-old is expected to provide much-needed firepower in attack, after the Devils registered a combined total of just 973 points last season – ranked 10th in Division 1.
“We’re lucky enough that Marcus wanted to come across and he’ll be a great acquisition,” Cochrane said.
“It certainly bolsters our forward line – our leading goal-kicker (last year) was only on 15 or 17 goals so we need to hit the scoreboard a lot more and (Marcus) will help in that area.”
A raft of young, ex-Vermont talent will don the green and white this season, including Patrick Wallis, Charlie Young, Hamish McGowan, James Krikas and Cal Mendes – all aged under 24 – along with Brook Kainey (25) and Nick Mendes (26).
Wallis and McGowan tied for the League’s top-flight under-19s best and fairest award in 2017, while Nick and Cal Mendes, who played under Cochrane at Vermont, return to the EFNL after a stint with Ararat in the Wimmera Football League.
“We needed to (recruit) because we finished second bottom last year … we definitely needed to recruit and increase our numbers on the list,” Cochrane said.
“Young talent is what we’re looking for at the Devils and we’re very fortunate to be able to get a few of them who are fairly close mates to be able to play together and still fairly local for them as well.
“They’ve all got attributes that they’ll certainly add to our club for sure.”
Also aligning with the Devils is two-time Vermont premiership player and Footscray VFL-listed midfielder, Robbie McComb, who is expected to play the majority of his footy at the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, three-time best and fairest winner Taylor Leggate has transferred to Division 2 club Boronia, alongside Sean Young.
Leggate and Young each featured in Wantirna South’s 2014 Division 3 premiership, and played over 150 and 100 games respectively for the club.
“Both have been great servants of the club and have had a long history and have been very good players,” Cochrane said.
“At the end of the day, they’ve put in some really good time at Wantirna South and were looking for greener pastures and that opened up the door for us to be able to get a couple of extra players as well.
“As it’s all unfolded, it’s definitely been a win-win.”
On the leadership front, former captain Luke Williams will miss the first half of the season due to travel, and a new captain is set to be decided on in the coming weeks.
Cochrane has issued the challenge to his new-look Devils outfit of the club’s high expectations as it looks for a finals berth.
“With all these guys coming down, they’ve played a lot of reserves footy and (some) a sprinkle of senior footy, it’s not going to be easy for them,” he said.
“To be playing seniors week in and week out, there’s going to be some expectations and it’s going to be a whole different spectrum for them.”
Wantirna South begins its campaign on Saturday, April 4, taking on 2019 grand finalist Croydon away.