The Hampton Rovers Football Club has undergone a remarkable transformation over the 2013 off-season and following a huge recruitment drive both on and off the field, the club is ready for an exciting season which kicks-off this Saturday.
While recent years have seen the club continue to perform strongly off the field, the on-field action has been a different story. Following three seasons in B Section between 2009 and 2011, the seniors now find themselves in D1 Section in 2013 after going last year without winning a game and just four wins between the three senior sides. The Rovers last recorded a win on 20th August 2011, in a 69-point demolition job of Caulfield Grammarians.
Enough of the past though. Since the curtain came down on 2012, the club has appointed a new Senior President in Matthew Gray. Mitzi, as hes known to most, brings with him a new level of professionalism, energy and above all else, excitement to the club. New and experienced heads on the committee complement the management of the club.
Next was the appointment of new Senior Coach Guy Martyn and his assistants. Guy, 26, is a former Rovers player while also playing at Sandringham Zebras, Dragons and most recently Hastings, before injury prematurely ended his playing career. Guys football knowledge and leadership qualities are second to none and this has been evident over the off-season.
Assisting him is the experience of Owen Lalor and Steve Kennedy. Owens coaching highlights include U19 Premier flags at St Bedes Mentone & Old Melburnians, taking St Bedes Mentone to an A Section Grand Final and most recently, VAFA U19 representative coach. Steve also has a wealth of experience with previous TAC Cup involvement at Sandringham Dragons and Dandenong Stingrays and also senior coach at Parkdale Vultures. Michael Flahive continues as Reserves coach while the club welcomes back John Cesario as new U19 coach.
With the foundations in place, the next step was re-energising the playing list. Its no secret a host of players departed the club over the previous few seasons. But the club is delighted to welcome the majority of them back in 2013.
The list of names include Daniel Corp (Frankston), Mark Devereaux, Kyle Pinto (Hastings), Jay Ting, Josh Verlin, Adam McNeil (Highett), Stuey Burggraaff (Tarwin). Luke Dallas, Jason Zampaglione and Daniel Andersen are also back while Danny Hughes has listed the Rovers as his home club when not playing for Port Melbourne.
Full credit must be given to every single player who has stuck by the club during the recent struggles. The past two seasons has meant many younger and less experienced players have had the opportunity to play senior football and that is really exciting for the future.
Weve seen the likes of Jackson Ward, Ed Turner, Nick Lyall, Richie Atkins, Jesse Lovig, Jack Baxter, Jay Dillion, just to name a few, really excel into genuine senior footballers over this time.
Jackson Ward shared his thoughts on what lies ahead,
The succession of dropping down two divisions in two years is something no club wants nor plans for. However, when faced with such a disappointing and tough time I only expect HRAFC to grow stronger and better.
I really do expect The Rovers to reclaim The Boss as a ground our opposition fear, as a ground our opposition know they have a fight on their hands and as a ground where the Rovers will ultimately prove they are a team not worth taking lightly."
And from Jack Baxter,
"Last year was obviously tough and, at times, quite disheartening. But I think it will contribute greatly to our performance next year. Having such a large number of young players bond through tough times should help build the foundation of our future success.
I think there is a great air of excitement in regards to the possibilities of the year ahead, however our expectations must be balanced against reality. The goals of both the playing and coaching group will be set high as we aim to move up the divisions of the VAFA just as quickly as we fell through them.
Pre-Season training has been strong with unprecedented numbers. So much so, that the club has re-introduced a fourth senior team in 2013 with the return of the Thirds/Clubbies. Having access to Boss James Reserve so early in 2013 has also been a huge benefit for the playing group.
Three practice games were recently held with a first-up loss against Peninsula Old Boys (C) in a scrappy affair in poor conditions, followed by two solid victories over South Melbourne Districts (D2) and Mordialloc (SFL D2). Some 30 players in total played a game in the senior team across the three games while over 60 played on each of the three days.
The great vibe around the club was reflected at the first social function of the year with the 2013 Season Launch last Saturday evening attracting over 100 people on the banks of the Yarra and a great atmosphere enjoyed by all.
Speaking ahead of the 2013 season opener, new senior coach Guy Martyn shared his thoughts,
Im very excited and looking forward to the first month of football. There has been a lot said about our team and the season ahead, but well have to wait and see how we play in real games until we get a true understanding of how were going to this season.
There is a very positive vibe around the club at the moment which was highlighted by a great season launch on Saturday night.
It has certainly been a huge off-season for the club and we look forward to an exciting year, this is reflected by a motto the club has been promoting: new era, new beginning.
Supporters can get involved in 2013 in various ways: by becoming a member, club sponsor, sponsoring a player, attending games and social functions and lending a hand at games were always looking for people to run water, do the scoreboard, be timekeeper, goal umpire and the list goes on. To ensure the club has a successful year, the support of everyone is vital. Continue to visit the Website, subscribe to the Newsletter and join our social channels, Facebook & Twitter for all the latest updates from the club.
It all gets underway this Saturday with a huge home game against arch local rivals Ormond. The club couldnt ask for a bigger game to kick-off 2013. Both teams will play for the Buxton Cup while the best player on ground will be awarded the newly formed Russell Barnes medal. The Reserves get underway at 11:40am with the Seniors at 2:00pm. The lunch commences at 12 midday and is heading towards a sell-out. A big crowd is expected and the club encourages everyone to get along and witness the start of an exciting season for the club.
by CAMERON VOSS