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Yarra Valley Water InFocus 2024 | Upper Ferntree Gully

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After a difficult three seasons, there are plenty of reasons to feel that the Upper Ferntree Gully Football Club is back on track.

 

The Kings have already managed to pull off a win this season, with a ten-point opening-round victory on the road against Fairpark.

 

Senior Coach Mark Fisher is back in the driver’s seat for his second consecutive season at the club. 2023 wasn’t the ideal start to his coaching career with Upper Gully, the side’s only victory coming in Round Two against Knox.

 

“(It was a) Development year from my point of view,” Fisher said.

 

“There were times in every game that we competed with everyone, even though we copped some awful hidings, we competed with everyone for stages, just never for long enough.”

 

Heading into 2024, the importance of topping up the list, particularly with more experienced names was of the utmost importance.

 

Fisher noted that the side had to play many players out of position, something that won’t be a factor this year with the current line-up.

 

“Trav Strange only played four games last year, he travelled. He was leading our best and fairest after four rounds – so he’s like a new player in,”

 

“Brad Pepi’s come over from Caufield, Russell Cowan,”

 

“Last year we played players out of position to try and fill holes, recruiting what we’ve been recruiting, we’ll have every player playing in a position they should be playing so realistically, we’ve got a completely new team on the ground.”

 

A much stronger outfit on the field will also see the reserves team bat deeper, a handy problem to have at the club.

 

“Depth is deep, we probably have 10-15 blokes who will miss out on a game, let alone just the seniors,” Fisher said.

 

“Got some experience in which helps, some good players too, they’ve really brought into the way we want to play, they’ve enjoyed it.”

 

Last season, the highlight for Upper Gully fans was the finals series run by their Under 19.5’s team.

 

They progressed through to the decider, having a great finals run that included a thrilling win over the Bears. Although they fell short of an undefeated Surrey Park outfit, they gave the Panthers a run for their money.

 

With most of the group as bottom age Under 19, they’ll be just as strong this season.

 

Having a strong off-season of recruiting, Upper Ferntree Gully will also not be as reliant on their future talent.

 

“Some games last year we played 5-6 Under 19s, we won’t need to do that this year, we’ll still have a couple each week but that will keep them strong.”

 

The club’s pre-season form continued into Round One as Upper Ferntree Gully held off Fairpark for a ten-point victory.

 

Recruit Russell Cowan had an immediate impact, while skipper Rory Bailey finished with three majors.

 

As stated in the pre-season by the senior coach, they aren’t changing the game style they developed last year or trying anything overly unique. The only difference is the players on the field.

 

“With the group we’ve got, the football we want to play, it works,” Fisher said.

 

“We saw a glimpse of that last year, putting all the pieces where they should be, you won’t see a different game style but you’ll see a different team.”

 

The club are eager to build on Saturday’s result and start to string multiple wins together and for this not to be a one-off.

 

“The club has had three wins in the last three and a half years,” Fisher said.

 

“We need to get to a point where the people that have stuck fat, and that’s players, committee, members, the whole lot, it’s a well-supported club, start to get some enjoyment on a Saturday night after the game.”

 

Another big success the club has had already in 2024 is the return of the senior women’s team, set to play in Division Four this year.

 

It’s the first time that Upper Ferntree Gully has had a senior women’s team since 2019 when the side competed in the second-highest division of the competition.

 

One of the team’s key recruits is a former Upper Gully star Kaitlyn Roleff who has previously played a total of nine seasons at the club.

 

The senior group are set to play off in a practice game this Saturday in what will be a mammoth day for the club with the senior men facing off against old rivals Ferntree Gully under lights at Kings Park.

 

The senior women’s team officially started their 2024 season campaign on Saturday, April 20th at Kings Park when they host The Basin.

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