By Josh Ward.
It’s been a remarkable rise for the Kilsyth senior men’s side in the past 12 months and they’ll look to continue it throughout the rest of the 2023 season.
The Cougars have continued to build on their first finals appearance in seven years in 2022, winning five of their opening six games to sit on top of the Division Four table heading into their first bye of 2023.
Senior men’s coach Simon Caldwell recently said that he was pleasantly surprised with his side’s strong start to the season.
“Last year we were 8-8 so to go technically not losing a game I wouldn’t have thought we’d be here, we were hoping to improve again with the talent we added into the side, but definitely not something we were thinking of,” Caldwell said.
Last weekend saw them defeat Chirnside Park by 46 points at Kimberley Reserve.
Caldwell said that it was pleasing to have been able to break their 13-year drought against the Panthers.
“(Since) I’ve been back at Kilsyth in this period we haven’t been able to get the chocolates (against them). It was good and it was a convincing win in the end.”
A lot has changed over the last 12 months for the Cougars, with Caldwell believing that the development of the former Kilsyth juniors had been one of the most pleasing parts to kick off 2023.
“That was the hope for the club that we can see some of these guys become really good senior footballers that are Kilsyth, there’s been more improvement from them.
“The pressure’s off them because they’re not having to play key roles. They can go from being our number one midfielder to our fourth/fifth rotation through there or onto a flank.”
Whilst the development of the young core has played a key role in Kilsyth’s rise in the last 12 months Caldwell added that the fitness program implemented by Sean Currey in preseason has also played a key role.
“If you look at all our results our last quarters have been our best, we’ve really ran out games well, we’re kicking lots of goals in the last quarter. What he’s done on the fitness side of it we’ve been really pleased (by that) from a coaching point of view.
“And the injuries we’ve had none of them have been soft tissue so to get through six rounds and not have a soft tissue injury and to be kicking four or five goals in last quarters each week against quality sides (is impressive) so a big shout out to him.”
Their new faces have also played key roles to start this season. Big-name recruit Jayden Weichard has made a massive impact through midfield and up forward, kicking eight goals in all six games whilst being named in the best four times.
“The instruction he gives for a young kid, you can see why he was a leader at Mooroolbark, he directs some of our guys at training, some of our older guys (as well). He’s been really good.”
Ex-Lilydale captain Ryan McNay has also had an impact both on and off the field, particularly over the last month against the big sides of the division.
“It’s hard to tag him, he’s six foot three, strong as a bull, he charges through, he can kick it long. He’s got a lot of really good attributes especially at this level, he’s been amazing for us and have been really rapt with him.”
With their start to the season Caldwell added that there was plenty of belief for the side heading into the rest of the season that the side can challenge for a premiership as well as promotion.
“From a coaching point of view, Surrey we always see as the benchmark, but following the draw a few of us we’re saying we can do it…
“Then the next challenge against Scoresby, they’ve come down from 3rd Division, the guys are starting to go why not us a little bit, why can’t we do it.”
This week sees them have their first bye of 2023, with Caldwell saying that they’ll look to enjoy the break whilst also continuing to work hard.
“We’ll have Tuesday night off, nothing on Saturday, have the weekend to themselves. It’s still a long year, take the breaks when you can, spend some time with your family and friends outside of footy…
“And that’s all part of the journey if you want some ultimate success at the end of the year. It’s these moments when you get these breaks that you can actually take a chance to get some miles in the legs and work hard.”