Sport

Cats to work on building foundations

By Aydin Payne

There is going to be a big emphasis on the local community at Mooroopna for the upcoming season, according to incoming coach John Lamont.

In an age where many country clubs look to recruiting to boost their fortunes, Mooroopna is targeting its local roots.

Lamont - a former senior coach of Werribee’s VFL outfit - brings with him a wealth of football experience and knowledge that he is ready to share with those at the Cattery.

“Our theme at the club is to be locally relevant, we want a strong connection to the area,” Lamont said.

“Cody Vincitorio is a local guy that is really keen to develop as a coach and he is going to handle the reserves, while former player Brendan Macartney has returned to steer the thirds.

“I think that it’s really important for a country club to have strong ties with the community.

“Isn’t that what country football is all about?”

And that local connection has flowed through to the playing personnel at the Cats in 2020, with Mooroopna and Lamont opting to focus on the club’s junior ranks.

Mooroopna will look to blood more senior appearances into a pack of youngsters from last year’s under-18s preliminary final side.

Dom Gugliotti, Isaac Dowling, Jai Carn, Nathan Basile, Darcy Russell, James Nethersole, Bailey Whittaker and Ky Johnston are eight players that supporters can expect to see more of this season.

A coach of Lamont’s stature could have easily brought talented players to the area, however, the former NAB League coach revealed he did not want to damage the growth of the club’s gifted juniors.

“There was a belief when I signed last year that I would bring a truckload of new foreign players to the club,” he said.

“But we have gone the other way, I’ve really wanted to focus on the good crop of under-18s at the club.

“There are eight to 10 boys that have had a taste of senior football and aspire to play at that level, and I need to support them to reach their goal.

“And they have all had great pre-seasons and responded strongly to what we have worked on, which is great to see.”

In terms of list changes, the Cats have welcomed back former best-and-fairest winner Dean Smith and former players Jake Crosbie and Alex Gugliotti.

Unfortunately, Mooroopna has lost last year’s award winner Kyle Gray, who has found his way back onto a VFL list, while key-forward Hudson Thomas has departed for work commitments.

Lamont revealed he was looking forward to working on the groundwork laid by former coach Dale Osborne during the past four seasons and said he could not wait to tackle the challenge that lay ahead.

 “We are building on the solid work put in by Dale Osborne from the past couple of seasons,” he said.

“The group finished 2019 off with plenty of positivity and they have carried that through to pre-season.

“It has been really enjoyable at a personal level and I’m looking forward to the season beginning.”

Fast facts

JOINED LEAGUE: 1894

NICKNAME: CATS

GROUND: MOOROOPNA RECREATION RESERVE

COACH: JOHN LAMONT

PRESIDENT: BILL DOWLING

PREMIERSHIPS: 1894, 1895, 1896, 1907, 1923, 1924, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1985, 1986

MORRISON MEDALLISTS: L. DWYER (1936), B. McCARTY (1962), R. WILLETT (1965, 1967, 1968), D. BUX (1972, 1973), G. SAUNDERS (1977), B. OUGH (1979), G. COOPER (1983, 1985), M. BLAKE (2012)

2019 FINISH: 11TH (4-14)

2019 BEST-AND-FAIREST: KYLE GRAY

2019 LEADING GOAL-KICKER: HUDSON THOMAS (36)

IN: Dean Smith (Nullawil), Alex Gugliotti, Jake Crosbie

OUT: Kyle Gray (St Joseph’s), Hudson Thomas (work commitments)

GAME CHANGER: DEAN SMITH

A huge inclusion to the Cats is onballer Dean Smith, who comes back to his former clubs after two years away in the Golden Rivers Football League.

The former club best-and-fairest winner starred at Nullawill, winning back-to-back premierships and best-and-fairest awards.

His attack on the ball will set the standard for the younger players coming through and suit the Cats’ tough midfield brigade.

FINISHING RANGE: 6TH – 12TH

In John Lamont’s first season as coach, expect to see a lot of development and emphasis on Mooroopna’s young emerging talents.

The Cats will have their ups and downs like any young outfit and their main focus come season end will to have laid down the foundations for the upcoming seasons.