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Yarra Valley Water InFocus 2024 | Donvale

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By Ryan Long.

They were the team to beat throughout the 2023 season and once again, Donvale enter the year as the measuring stick of the Division Three competition.


The Magpies won 17 of their 18 Home and Away games before a dominant finals series saw them claim their twelfth senior premiership with a ten-goal victory over Ferntree Gully on Grand Final Day.


The victory was made all the sweeter with the Development squad taking out the reserves premiership with a thrilling premiership victory over Warrandyte.


Premiership coach Kevin Collins returns as the Magpies Senior Coach, preparing the squad for another massive campaign.


“We’ve done a lot of simulation work, we had a really good training camp, the players have reloaded, readjusted, ready for the season,” Collins said.


“We do know that there’s going to be new oppo (Opposition), new challenges and we’ve got to gauge how we deal with them.”


Donvale remain in Division Three with no promotion last season. This allows the club to set their sights on potential back-to-back flags.


Despite being in the same division, their opposition has changed with multiple new sides as well as the re-introduction of the Final Five.


Collins is adamant that the group is just as hungry for success in 2024 and knows the challenges ahead of them as the club goes into the season as the benchmark for the division.


“The hunger is always there, we’ve got two new teams coming down, one team coming up so opposition is different to what it was last year,”


“We understand that each club will monitor how they’re going according to when they come up against us and Ferntree Gully so we know we’ll be under the pump each game.”


The club is in great shape heading into Round One, improvement looks to come from within.


The Under 19’s program is one of the strongest in the division and 2024 will be a great opportunity for some young players to push for senior debuts.


Along with that, the Reserves team has plenty of experienced talent that will keep the pressure on the current senior group to perform every week.


“Toby Nash and Luke Wignell, both players who won the comp b and f in the development comp so there’s a lot of pressure on players to hold their spot,” Collins said.


“The driving force is if you can be in the first game, someone’s got to get you out, so I think that’s been really good and the players have responded accordingly.”


As for their senior group, it’s still quite a young list overall with many players only set to grow, such as Kaleb Djordevic who kicked 25 goals for the season, including an after-the-siren goal to win their Round One clash against Warrandyte.


Skipper James Rausa is coming off an incredible season where he took home a premiership, a best-on-ground medal and a league best and fairest.


As impressive as he is on the field, his ability to improve the guys around him is just as important.


“Outstanding leader but he’s got great empathy and understanding for the younger blokes,” Collins described Rausa.


“He’s an educator within himself and for a lot of people who have natural talent, sometimes it’s difficult to understand and live in someone else’s shoes but he has the capacity to do that.”


A great brand of footy on the field has matched the positive culture the club has built off it. The united group are eager to continue developing their football as they head into the season.


“Footy’s all about education so we’re all still learning, we think there’s a lot of learning in the group,”


“It’s a really cohesive group, they enjoy each other’s company, they have great respect for one another, so we are just looking to drive it from within the group.”


Donvale’s premiership defence starts this Saturday when they head to Wally Tew Reserve to face Ferntree Gully in a Grand Final Rematch.


There’s plenty of respect between the two clubs who faced off in a total of five games last season including the Division Three decider.


“They’re formidable opposition, for most of the season they were very close,” Collins said.


“They’ve got really good run on the inside, have a really strong midfield and their forward set-up is potent so we’ve just got to be on our game,”


“We’re excited to play them, big ground, open spaces, really good opposition, really well coached, strong club on and off the field so we really enjoy engaging with them.”

It’s also an exciting time for the Magpies senior women’s group who make up one of six teams in what is set to be a very tight Division One competition.


Senior Coach Stephen Latino was re-appointed at the end of the season, having coached the side for the last two and a half seasons, leading the Magpies to a Grand Final in 2022.

“Very excited, I really enjoy doing what I do for the group,” Latino said.


“Just being around football is just good fun so I’m really happy to go again and excited for the year ahead.”


The side progressed into the Premier Division after a Grand Final appearance the year prior. Up against some very strong competitive teams, the Magpies were tested each week.


Their performances improved as the season went by, increasing scoring, pinching a victory and being super competitive against some of the best sides of the division.


“It was a tale of two halves last year,” Latino said.


“Most importantly coming into this year was that we retained players, it gets a bit difficult when you have a season like that, but how we went about it was perfect, really proud of the group and how they conducted themselves last year.”


Latino was adamant about making sure the enjoyment was never lost during the year.


With great numbers, the club and Latino are both pleased with the strength of the list heading into 2024.


“It was a key thing to make sure everyone was still enjoying their football,”


“Looking at the list, it’s looking pretty strong and pretty healthy so we’re very happy with how the girls have come along,”


“We’ve dropped a division but we’re still expecting to come up against some good teams and need to put our best foot forward.”


Last year’s results are only set to improve the side going forward. They face an all-new division of teams and will look to use the learnings of Premier Division football to their benefit in Division One.


“A big mantra of last year, was obviously we were playing the best and if you want to be the best, then you’ve got to play against the best,”


“To get that taste and have that ability to push some of those teams holds us in good stead for this year.”


Having come up against the likes of formidable opponents in the Eastern Devils and South Croydon, the Magpies are looking to implement some aspects of their game that have seen them have plenty of success in recent years.


“Bit of a focus on Trying to hit the contest as quickly as we can,” Latino said.


“You could see with the other teams last year how quickly they moved the ball and how well they reacted, pre-empting what was going to happen.”


Senior leaders such as Alex Jaksic, Amelia Van Oosterwijck and Monica Latino have all led the way over the pre-season. They’ll be key in not only the side’s success on the field but also the development of their overall squad of players.


Others such as Grace Power and Monica Ciampa are ready to step up their game to a new level in 2024.


“Grace Power and Monica Ciampa both put in a heap of work on the field and off the field,


“Grace, we’ve inducted her into our leadership group so that’s really great for her,”


“Monica Lats, Ameillia and AJ all put in a lot of work so we’re expecting a lot out of them.”

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