Wright time for the Eagles

Beaconsfield coach Mick Fogarty fully expects his Eagles to play finals football this year. 277794 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By David Nagel

Beaconsfield will look to continue its forward progression when the Eagles begin their third season in Eastern Division 1 against Wantirna South on Saturday.

Coach Mick Fogarty steered the Eagles into fourth place last year, with a 10-8 winning record leading to an elimination final defeat at the hands of North Ringwood.

It followed a 6-12 record, and seventh placing, in the Eagles inaugural year in Eastern in 2022.

“It’s an upwards progression; it’s nice that its trending that way, but the competition in division one is really tight and you can’t take anything for granted,” Fogarty explained.

“You’ve got your standouts like South Belgrave and Mitcham, Montrose will be up there as well

“Those three are pretty tight at the top end, and then there’s the rest of us fighting it out for the next couple of spots.

“I’m not putting a ceiling on it, I do expect us to play finals, I really do, and we want to stay on that upward progression.

“However, the competition does nobody any favours, it’s a good competition, a tough and even competition; but I’m pretty confident that if everything goes well, we’ll be there at the end of the year.”

Due to a restructure of Eastern football, the bottom two teams from last year – Croydon and Lilydale – have dropped to Division 2 and been replaced by Premier Division cellar-dwellers Doncaster and Park Orchards.

The Eagles have lost prime-mover Sam Mackinder to Seaford, but have bolstered their stocks in key positions on the ground.

Former St Kilda utility Nathan Wright put pen to paper in the off-season, joining the Eagles from Southern League club Chelsea Heights.

The 30-year-old played 35 AFL games – from 2013 to ’18 – and brings a wealth of experience to the midfield.

“With us being a young side, he’s leadership and direction has been terrific and he’s thoughts on the game come from the highest level,” Fogarty said.

“I’m not saying we’ve got an AFL gameplan, but it’s got similar traits to what he’s been involved with in the past; he understands what we’re trying to do which is really important.

“He’s also going to bring some real toughness around the footy, which is what we need to help out our midfield.

“He’ll be a terrific inclusion for us; not just for his football ability but his leadership and nous as well.”

The Eagles have also bolstered their front half, with key forward Charlie Muley making the short trip across from Berwick’s Edwin Flack Reserve to Holm Park Reserve, while small forward Mackay Bateson heads to the club from Monbulk.

It’s a combination that Fogarty hopes will prove lethal

“Charlie (Muley) showed it in Premier Division last year with Berwick, and already in practice matches, that if he doesn’t mark it, he brings it to ground and allows the smalls to feed off that; get front and centre around a strong target,” he said.

“He’s strong, he leaps at the footy really well and is going to provide a real focal point for us in the forward half.

“He can also chop out down there in the ruck; so, we’re really excited by the presence he brings this year.

“And Mackay is a small forward who has really impressed through pre-season; I’m looking forward to what he can do this year, and we’ve got quite a few younger guys coming through that could also have an impact.

“I can think of four or five off the top of my head that are going to be serious players for this footy club over the next couple of years.

“Those younger players can lead the way and take the footy club to a really good place.”

Brady Niezgodka also joins from Noble Park, while Jafar Ocaa returns from a broken leg and Darren Minchington is expected to improve his output after a rock-solid pre-season.

The Eagles will also have a long list of VFL talent at their disposal for varying lengths of time.

Kobe Shipp and Mitch Szybkowski (Casey), Harrison Coe, Matt Johnson and Josh Mounter (Frankston) and Kade De La Rue (North Melbourne) will all have impact when their VFL schedule allows them.

“It’s tough sometimes to juggle that, but we want our players to experience that level; get coached by coaching groups aligned with AFL clubs; because it means when we get them back, they come back as better players,” Fogarty said.

“It’s difficult from one standpoint, but we want them to progress and achieve their dreams.

“They’re Beaconsfield juniors, we would love to see them succeed; and it’s just a bonus when we get them back.”

Beaconsfield premiership player Kris Fletcher has also returned to the club as an assistant-coach from Monbulk.

“He (Fletcher) has brought in a really strong gameplan, that relies a lot on a defensive system that we’ve been focussing on in pre-season,” Fogarty explained.

“It allows us to get some really good looks going inside 50, when we win the ball back, and it’s a system that we think will improve our footy this year.”

Beaconsfield defeated Wantirna South by eight points in the corresponding clash last year.