Laurimar coach Justin Sherman says winning its first final at senior level is the club’s aim heading into the 2020 season.
Sherman has guided the Power to the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 finals in each of his first two seasons as coach, however they are yet to taste victory from three finals appearances.
The club’s inaugural final in 2018 saw it succumb to South Morang in a five-point thriller in the first semi final.
Last year the Power went undefeated until Round 16 and finished the regular season in second spot on the ladder, just percentage behind Panton Hill.
However, injuries derailed their campaign and the undermanned Power bowed out of the finals in straight sets.
The finals defeats to eventual grand finalists Panton Hill and South Morang brought a premature end to what had been a promising campaign, with the Power’s average losing margin in its three finals over the past two seasons just eight points
Laurimar is using last year’s finals exit as motivation ahead of the 2020 season and Sherman believes the club has regrouped over the pre-season as it aims to improve on last year’s preliminary final finish.
“We gained a valuable experience playing finals last year,” Sherman told NFNL.org.au.
“We came up against some good sides and for us the message is simple – let’s get back on deck, work hard, do everything right and get a complete buy-in.”
While the pain of last year’s straight-sets finals exit is being used as a motivating factor, Sherman said a major focus of pre-season had been ensuring his team is implementing the right structures ahead of new season.
“I’m big on the controllables,” Sherman said.
“I’m not focused on what others are doing. I’m worried about ticking all the boxes and getting everything right for our first hit out in March.”
Laurimar won 14 of 18 matches fielding a relatively youthful side in 2019.
Sherman said he would continue to provide opportunities to the club’s emerging players, but felt it was also necessary to add more experience to the squad.
The Power have signed former Division 2 leading goal kicker Daniel Francis, Hurstbridge duo Matt Gersh and Mitch Lucas, Reservoir defender Paul Cluney and Whittlesea’s Ethan Gorski.
“We needed to add some more experience. We’ve gone out and done that,” Sherman said.
“We’re really happy with the squad we’ve got. The guys we’ve brought in have played high levels and are a lot older, which bumps our average age up.”
Francis could prove to be the most important inclusion upon his return to football following several injury-plagued seasons.
A noted goal kicker in the NFNL over the past decade, the 27-year-old has scored 260 goals since 2011, He took out the Division 2 goal kicking award in 2016 when he booted 71 goals for the Fitzroy Stars, but has played just two matches over the past two years.
Jack Stewart, Jordan Wilkins and Zac Hill are among the names who have departed Laurimar Reserve in the off-season.
Box Hill-listed Stewart has been signed by first division side Hurstbridge, Wilkins has returned to former club Epping, while Hill has transferred to Mernda.
Despite putting an emphasis on having more experience in the side, Sherman believes younger players who got opportunities late in 2019 are set to assert themselves in the senior team in 2020.
“We gave kids an opportunity through the finals last year who probably wouldn’t have had that experience were it not for injuries to key leaders,” Sherman said.
“Jacob Lawson took his game to another level last year and has worked really hard on the track. He’s one of our hardest runners, one of our hardest workers and he’s still a young kid who’s still got a lot to go.
“Ethan Frawley, Will Di Pietro and Campbell Walker – all three of those guys played in our finals series last year and it’s good to see a lot of our young kids get opportunities.
“Six months later those guys having a full pre-season under their belt are faster, strong and mentally stronger.”
Having himself returned to the field in 2019 after coaching from the sidelines in his first year with Laurimar, Sherman confirmed he will once again put on the boots this season.
“I will be happy to run around again this year. I’m really looking forward to it. It was really refreshing and enjoyable being around the boys last year,” he said.
“I’ve got great support staff around me and I think for their development and myself I will have another run around this year and weigh up the options at the end of 2020.”
Laurimar has confirmed two pre-season games in March. The first clash will be against Congupna of the Murray FNL on March 14, before taking on Kinglake the following week.
The Power’s 2020 home and away campaign will commence on April 4 against Kilmore at Laurimar Reserve.