Mernda coach Paul Derrick hopes the agony of missing last year’s Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 finals inspires his club to greater things in 2019.
The Demons sat inside the the top-four for the opening 17 rounds last year, before slipping to fifth following a Round 18 loss to Panton Hill.
It was the second time in three seasons the club had suffered the unfortunate fate, after experiencing the same disappointment in 2016.
Derrick hoped the agonising end to last year would drive his side throughout the new campaign.
“Hopefully they’re burnt from last year. I know a few are, so I hope that inspires them to go harder this year and be more consistent,” Derrick told NFNL.org.au.
“If we are not aiming for finals then we are wasting our time. Our aim is to make finals and finish as high as we can.
“We know this competition is super even at the moment, although most expect Panton Hill to probably almost win it. We certainly don’t.
“I’m sure there’ll be some upsets and games that people don’t expect us to win that we will get away with and maybe games that we drop that we should win, but hopefully we get a consistent effort across the length of the season.”
Mernda has suffered some significant departures over the summer, with Rohan Davies, Les Adams, Krys Douglas, Jesse Owens-Draper, Adrian Stefanile and Liam Gray all leaving the club.
Despite the exodus, Mernda impressed in its first hitout of the season to claim the Patrick Chow Cup in its annual clash with Epping.
The young side overcame a small half time deficit to win by 13 points at Waterview Recreation Reserve against their more fancied Division 2 rivals.
“It was a pretty physical game. There was lots of running and hard work and we thought we got better as the day got on,” Derrick said.
“It was tough conditions with the wind and the heat but it was good to get the win. I thought our last quarter, in particular, was pretty good.
Derrick said skipper Josh Delaney was a clear best on ground but was most impressed by the performances of the club’s emerging senior players in the win.
“Obviously we also had lot of new blokes on the ground and they seemed to gel as the day went on.
“The young blokes in Chris Roussos, Brayden Burgess and Josh Maurer have all done fantastic in pre-season and we really saw them influence the game on the weekend, which is good.”
Mernda boasted a strong defence in 2018, conceding the second fewest points in the division, behind only premier St Mary’s.
However, the Demons’ forward line remains a work in progress, with the new-look attack set to include impressive youngster Dayne Kellett and recruits Ryan Kannegiesser and Tyson Sparkes.
“I think last year we didn’t have a key forward after losing a couple in the off-season,” Derrick said.
“Our forward line last year was made up of five defenders who had played defence their whole lives, so it was a work in progress.
“This year we have shuffled a little bit and we have more goal kicking players in the side. A few of the midfielders we have recruited are goal kickers as well, so they’ll rotate through the forward line.
“We do have a nice balance up there of height, size, pace and nous so we think we will be better in that area.
“It’s more the Bradford’s and the Burgess’ coming in and giving us the pace on the ground and they can snag a few goals as well so hopefully it works more as a combination than just a few blokes.
Derrick said the return of Anthony Bradford from a shoulder injury was pivotal. The powerful midfielder has been one of the standouts on the training track.
“He’s led the way, taken some Saturday morning sessions and done things on his own accord, which has been great.
“I expect to him to have a huge season. He’s got the ability to influence games and he’s setting the standards.”
Mernda will take on EDFL clubs Northern Saints and East Sunbury in its remaining practice matches, before opening its 2019 campaign on the road against Heidelberg West in Round 1.