Northcote Park senior men’s captain Matthew Perry is adamant that the club will not only be back playing finals football in 2023, but that their stay in MC Labour Division 2 will be short-lived.
The Cougars will return to the competition for the first time since 1994 after finishing on the bottom of last year’s Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 ladder, registering just three victories.
Despite the on-field struggles, Perry enjoyed a handy campaign, playing 14 matches and being named in the best on 10 occasions.
Pre-season will be business as usual for Perry and his side, but the 25-year-old made it clear that work needs to be done to ensure they are a strong premiership contender from the outset.
“There’s not a whole lot that’s changed… we obviously don’t plan to be here for too long so we’re just treating the season as if we were preparing for a Division 1 season,” he said.
“Our mantra has been that we probably didn’t deserve our spot in Division 1 because we didn’t win enough games. So, we’ve got to suck that up and work a bit harder to get ourselves back to where our footy club knows it should be.”
The club got on the front foot in December, with Perry among five players to confirm their place at Bill Lawry Oval in 2023, including talented trio Alexander Boyse, Matthew D’Angelo and Daniel Tallariti.
Boyse kicked 27 goals in 17 games in 2022 to lead the club’s goalkicking charts in his first season with the Cougars, going on to finish second in the club best and fairest award.
D’Angelo also enjoyed a solid first year at Northcote Park, with the forward kicking 16 majors in 16 games and also playing a critical ruck role when required.
Meanwhile, Tallariti claimed the Cougars’ 2022 best and fairest after being named in his side’s best in nine of his 16 games last season.
Perry didn’t talk down the importance of the trio signing on for the upcoming campaign, saying their commitment so early in the off-season will boost the club’s morale.
“They’re massive re-signing’s, not only because of their performances and the accolades and achievements they had last year, but they’re also just really good people for our footy club,” he said.
“They were sort of the three that signed early along with myself and really got the ball rolling with committing to the fact that it might not be everybody’s cup of tea having to go down to Division 2, but we were just committed to the fact that we love the footy club and we’re determined to stick at it and help as much as we can.
“I couldn’t commend those three high enough for the way they’ve attacked their pre-season and their commitment to our footy club.”
The Perry name is a famous one at Bill Lawry Oval, highlighted last year when Matt took to the field with brothers Jordan and Lucas for the first time in their opening round clash with Montmorency. Their father Kevin is a Cougars premiership player and assistant coach.
Matt was made Northcote Park captain in 2022, taking over from Paul Dirago, and he hopes that it’s a role he can continue to have in the near future to not only help lead the club but to continue to honour his family’s legacy.
“There’s a lot of history behind the Northcote Park Football Club for me and my family, so it was a proud moment taking over the captaincy last year,” he said.
“It obviously wasn’t the smoothest of sailings for my first year, but I’m certainly committed to getting the group back to playing some good footy, winning some games, and hopefully tasting a bit of finals success this year.
“[Being captain] is something I certainly enjoy. Hopefully I can hold on to it and do a good job in the role for a few more years to come.”
Despite only three wins in their last 29 games, the Cougars are expected to be competitive against the top sides in MC Labour Division 2.
Perry outlined his side’s crystal-clear goals ahead of this year’s campaign, describing the imperativeness of having the whole club aligned to the same aspirations.
“Our first goal is to get ourselves into a position to be playing finals, we’re under no illusions that there’s some strong sides there in Division 2, but our main goal is to get ourselves to finals and sort of take it from there,” he said.
“The ultimate goal is to get ourselves back in Division 1 and playing the best footy we can and if that’s not our goal then we’re sort of wasting our time a bit, so definitely as much success as possible in terms of winning games is our target.”