New Hurstbridge senior men’s coach Joel Cordwell is excited by the opportunity to return to local football as he prepares to make the club more competitive in season 2023.
The club announced Cordwell’s appointment in late September following the departure of co-coaches Brayden Shaw and Jarrod Tilley at the end of the 2022 campaign.
Cordwell comes to Ben Frilay Oval with plenty of coaching experience at both local and state level. He guided Eastern Football Netball League club Heathmont to three consecutive finals series’ between 2016 and 2018, which included a grand final appearance in 2017, before becoming the midfield coach for both the men’s and women’s football programs at the Eastern Ranges.
He’s recently spent the last two seasons with Carlton’s VFL team as an assistant coach, helping the Blues reach the semi-final this year.
Keen to return to local football in 2023, Cordwell said Hurstbridge stood out to him when exploring his options.
“Being at the NAB League and Carlton in recent years, you sometimes don’t get that community feel, so I was really eager to get back into that environment,” he said.
“Talking to people that knew about the club, there seems to be a tight-knit community and that attracted me to come here.”
Hurstbridge have already gone to work to retain their 2022 squad, with the club announcing the re-signing’s of seven players including Ty Franks, Mitch Hymus and 2022 Team of the Year forward Joel Naylor.
However, the Bridges will need to fill the void left by captain and 2022 club best and fairest Lachlan East after the defender switched to Division 1 rivals Bundoora earlier this month.
Cordwell accepted the loss of their skipper but is looking forward to adding to a talented list in 2023.
“You’re always going to lose a few, that’s just the cycle of a footy club, there’s occasionally moving parts,” he said.
“But generally speaking, we seem to be pretty stable across the list and I think now we just want to add the bits and pieces in places where we’ve potentially got some holes in.”
Hurstbridge finished the season with a 5-12 record and despite registering less wins than in 2019, had a better record against top five sides than they did three years prior, and boasted a better percentage than three other sides this year.
Cordwell is weary that the competition won’t get any easier next year but is looking forward to the challenge of improving the squad further.
“Obviously the teams that played in finals this year are really strong outfits and we want to test ourselves in that space. We’re really looking forward to that challenge,” he said.
Cordwell added that with his young team, he wanted to emphasise the importance of improvement and consistency in the coming years.
“A lot of these young players may have played 100 games even though they’re young, so I think they’re ready… to be competitive and go deeper into the year,” he said.
“One of the challenges for us being a little bit younger is that consistency. I think it’s really important to build that strong brand from week to week.
“If we can play the way we want to play, the players will generally bring out their strengths and that’s when you can perform at your optimum. That’s what we’re aiming for and then I think the results just take care of itself after that.”