By Matt Fotia
First year Heathmont coach won’t hold any of his young stars back should they wish to flee the nest in the future, after his young Jets made it five in a row pre-lockdown.
Heathmont started the year with two successive losses and the young group looked set to take a step backwards following a period of sustained success, but have since shot up to third on the Division Two ladder with five consecutive wins, including two over pre-season premiership favourites Ringwood and Boronia.
Rutley came to the Jets via the Nab League Women’s and AFL Outer East club Wandin, with whom he won the 2018 premiership the last ever ‘Yarra Ranges’ flag.
Speaking on EFNL Sunday (23/5), Rutley said there were a number of similarities between the folks at Clegg Road and H.E. Parker, but cited the increased people power and the level of coaching in the EFNL as the key differences.
“There’s nothing like coaching your own club (Wandin), I got told through my development years to go coach my own club because it’s a different experience and they weren’t wrong – I loved it,”
“Now going into Heathmont there are still similarities, but we’re very blessed with our resources and a lot more people power around the footy club,”
“That’s been the biggest stand out along with the coaching too, no offence to the Valley coaches, but even in Division Two you’ve just got to be on your toes all the time.. regardless of the scoreboard.”
Heathmont’s resurgence has been off the back of some exciting play, with the young Jets the number two attack in the Division behind South Belgrave, and in the last month of action they booted 105.5 points per game as they overcame Boronia, Mulgrave, Templestowe and Knox.
Rutley said that this sort of form was evident in the pre-season and admits there might have been a sense of over confidence in the camp heading into Round One.
“We probably drank our own bathwater a bit with the practice match form, because we’d played better teams, I know I certainly did, and then we walked into Round One against The Basin and Stants (Justin Stanton) and his boys gave us a really good touch up,”
“But we got the response at South Belgrave – although we got beat, we had them on the ropes at three quarter time and they ran over us – that was the day our kids really stood up,”
“They’ve really embraced what we’re doing and now it’s full steam ahead.”
Brothers Ryan Burleigh (23 years old), Joel Burleigh (21) have been standouts in 2021 for Rutley’s side, with the Burleigh brothers appearing in the best players 10 times between them this year, with a new role helping Ryan take his game to the next level.
“Ryan Burleigh has taken his game to a new level, he’s been labelled an outside midfielder and we put it on him and now we find his best football is on the inside and going forward,”
“Joel’s CV speaks for itself, Eastern Ranges, VFL lists, South Croydon and now back with us to play with his brother,”
“We were mucking around with him a little bit, I was using him as a bit of a ‘Mr Fix It’ and we had a really good conversation and he just said I think I play my best footy down back and just leave me alone, so we’ve done that for a month, and he’s blown me away.”
Meanwhile, Hansen (18 years old) has announced himself on the EFNL scene with 15 goals this year and Rutley believes he’s got what it takes to get to the next level.
“He (Hansen) doesn’t say much, but he just keeps getting it done,”
“He was doing that in the pre-season and then we played him for a game or two and then we kept picking him and now he’s becoming a really exciting player,”
“Selfishly as a coach you try and keep him at H.E Parker and have him play 200-250 games, but I think for guys like that we need to push them, send them down the pathway, try and get them into a VFL Pre-Season and see where he can go.”
Right back in the finals mix for another season and with a young list to boot, Heathmont are making themselves a real destination club in the EFNL, especially with their state of the art facilities.
None of this is lost on Rutley.
“It sounds funny, but if we all remember the old digs at Heathmont, I know I certainly do, they were like most clubrooms, they were quite awful,”
“But now we’re blessed with this new facility, people are coming back and enjoying it – there hasn’t been a home game where we haven’t had a really good crowd or function upstairs,”
“And there is a flow on effect, it’s just a really good vibe.”
“We should be playing good footy, we should be training well, because it’s all there for us.”