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Yarra Valley Water InFocus 2024 | Bayswater

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By Jared Beanland


2023 was a year of improvement for the boys from Bayswater, and the club is approaching this season with a healthy combination of optimism and realism.


After somewhat underperforming in the two years prior, the Waters narrowly missed out on a finals appearance in 2023, dropping an important game against North Ringwood in round 16 that saw the Saints take 5th spot instead.


With 8 wins and 10 losses, Bayswater proved to be something of a wildcard throughout last year, complicating the path to the finals for some teams, and causing upsets along the way. A former player returning to Bayswater as the senior coach in 2023, Marc Hardy says that last year was better than he expected.


“I think it probably exceeded expectations in I’m honest, because I wasn’t quite sure of what the list was like. I guess the expectations weren’t that high. The club had stuck around the middle to lower end of the table, so having some good results probably exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. We’re in a better shape than what people gave us credit for,” Hardy said.


The standard of the club had been raised from previous seasons, and as a young side with plenty of talent, that change in attitude can go a long way.


“I think (the improvement came from) just with an emphasis on the guys being more professional with their footy, and that was our main message to get across to the players,”


“Once we got that message across, the result flowed on from that. So we took everything a lot more seriously, and put value on everything they did. I reckon that’s where we were able to get some big games quite quickly, just from they way they conducted themselves. I think that was a big part of why we saw dramatic improvement so to speak”


This has translated into how Bayswater have performed on the training track in the opening months of the year.


“We’ve have a very solid preseason, it’s looking good, but you don’t know until you play your first game I guess.”


“It doesn’t matter where you finish on the ladder, I think when you come into a new season, everyone’s pretty optimistic about where you can get to. Because we’ve got such a young group they’re trying to take their footy to the next level, and their training to the next level. So hopefully we’re a bit fitter, a bit a faster and stronger than last year.”


Not having reached the finals since 2019, Bayswater were only two premiership points off making that final spot in the top 5, making those close games of which Bayswater had several all the more important.


“I think when you miss out, you miss out. But I think knowing that we lost a lot of games by small margins, we weren’t that far off it. So you don’t think you’re too far away if you can get that sort of improvement, and turn those half losses into wins.


Being such a young group, weve really focussed on guys doing the extras required to be a senior footballer, and a big example is that our boys put a lot of time and effort getting into the gym, and being of 19, 20, 21 thats probably our average age getting bigger and stronger, and being able to compete,”


Not getting pushed off the footy as easy. If we can improve that area by about 5 to 10% we believe we can win those games.


A feature of Bayswaters 2023 was the fact that they only fielded a total of 30 players throughout the year an uncommonly small number, which helped provide continuity and cohesiveness on field. A lack of injuries and good fitness throughout the club led to this stat, however Hardy explains that the club will be targeting higher on-field turnover this year.


From an injuries point of view its a great number, but more realistically you would hopefully stretch out to 35 with five or six younger guys progressing from under 19s to reserves footy, to senior footy,”


“So weve been able to pick up a few players, but also the natural progression of giving the younger guys an opportunity to play senior footy. I hope that number pops out to 35 to 40 available players that are good enough to play senior footy,”


So I think in that regard were very healthy, because a lot of the younger guys are ready to take the next step, its just a matter of them being able to earn a position in the side, because its going to be very competitive for spots, which is a great problem to have.


Adding to the mix of young blood already on the field in season 2023, the under 19s and reserves teams are providing the senior team with some talent for Hardy to think about in the coming weeks.


Weve got a couple of young guys Tommy Maxwell whos probably going to just step out of under 19s hopefully into senior footy,”


“Hes definitely a young footballer on the rise, and will give himself every chance to play senior footy,”


“Andy Durham is another young guy who looks as though he can step up into senior footy,”


“Also Lachie Amy, hes tailor made to play senior footy, its a matter of finding the young guy a spot I guess. The mix is youve got to find enough game time for these boys to naturally improve to match up with the potential on show. Theres a few guys who wont be too far off the mark of playing senior footy in the first one to five rounds I reckon.


The off-season has also provided some opportunities for Bayswater to search for options outside of their four walls, and Hardy is excited about what his new recruits have to offer this season.


Christian Poe from The Basin looks absolutely tailor made to play senior footy, in training hes left nothing on the table, hes been outstanding. He looks as though hes going to be super. Jake Lewis from Noble Park has fit in really well, hell play full back for us, he looks fantastic,” 


“And a bit of a smoky, Angus Howie is a bit of a basketball rookie wholl come in and play a bit of senior footy from the start, he looks as though hes going to add quite a bit to our senior team. So those three guys we think theyre going to have strong seasons.


The addition of Jake Lewis will add to an already strong defensive line-up that Bayswater has cultivated over the past couple of years. The Waters were particularly able to maximise thatadvantage on their home ground, holding opponents there to an average of 65.5 points per game. However, as Hardy mentions, the other end of the ground does require more attention this year.


I think weve always put a big emphasis on defending, and making it hard for opposition teams to score. It keeps you in games, and gives you the opportunity to win games of footy. But I think youve also got to look at what you have up forward, and our forwards werent overly strong last year, so we had to defend more to give ourselves a chance to be in games,”


“I think we kept ourselves in the majority of games, but we had two games in which we got blown out a little bit against South Belgrave at home, and Mitcham away. And they obviously both made the Grand Final. I think against every other team we were extremely competitive to be honest, and we managed to beat Mitcham in the last round which was great. But I think a big emphasis on defending, but wed love to get a big score on the board this year, and be able to kick teams out of it.


While Bayswater do have firepower up forward, Hardy judges that it will not be enough to just rely upon the one or two strong goal kickers that they have at their disposal. Part of their planned improvement this year will be an emphasis on midfielders kicking goals.


I think its going to be 100% team-based. We know that we have Bryce Galvin whos had a super preseason, hopefully hes going to get us quite a few goals. But were looking for the mids to put a lot of scoreboard pressure on as well, so being that we think were quite fit, were in a good position for everyone to kick goals. We need a really good spread to be competitive.


While there has been a solid influx of new blood, and recruits from elsewhere, there are always departures. The off season has been no different for Bayswater, as they say farewell to a club favourite.


Hayden Schroeder is a very, very good footballer, both forward and back. Hes decided to give it away and put a bit more time into getting married and a few other things. Hell be missed because hes a fantastic guy around the footy club, but also a very, very good player.


Under Hardy the club is taking a more long-term approach to improvement. While a finals appearance is on the table, and certainly a goal for the team, the focus is more big picture than just achieving that in 2024.


We obviously look to improve, but if it means we miss finals, but we still take steps with a young group to improve and have them on the right path it will be a successful season. If we can see improvement across the board with all of our players, and our general game plan for the year, I think well count that as a successful year. And if were good enough to push for finals, wed be happy to play finals.


But I think were optimistic and we just want to keep improving. Not only with our list, but with our whole footy club, I think our footy clubs in a strong position at the moment. We need to get to work and make sure we maintain that, and keep improving on the park.


Bayswater will kick off their season in a re-match against the team which knocked them out of finals contention last year, and look for a chance at revenge. The Waters will play a home match against North Ringwood at Bayswater Oval on Saturday, April 6th.


It’s also an exciting time for the club with the return of the Bayswater Senior Women’s side, re-entering the competition for the first time since 2019.


It’s a huge success for the club, who have been recently developing and growing in the return of the Netball program, most recently taking home of the Division Four Summer Competition premiership home.


The senior women’s side has had great numbers on the track throughout the pre-season and are set to enter Division Four of the Deakin University Senior Women’s competition.


Bayswater are one of three sides re-entering the competition. They return alongside both Ferntree Gully and Upper Ferntree Gully, all competing in fourth division in what will be a nine-team competition.


Bayswater opens the season at home at Bayswater Oval on Saturday, April 20th, when they face off against Wantirna South.

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