A campaign in which they were just four points shy of a drought breaking finals berth has Heidelberg West coach Michael Missen and his playing group excited about what they can achieve in 2023.
The Hawks’ 2022 Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 season was their best performance in the Division, finishing with a 10-win campaign as three losses in four games decided by 12 points or less would prove to be what stood between them and a first NFNL finals berth since 1994.
Speaking to nfnl.org.au, Missen said that whilst there’s been a fair amount of reflection on what unfolded in 2022, the club is already committed to improving next year.
“The playing group is excited for 2023. It’s probably the first time in my time coaching where we’ve had 15 or 16 guys that didn’t stop training over the break,” he said.
“It’s probably standard, but in the past, we might’ve only had a handful of guys that approached their footy like that, whereas now 90% of our senior group have changed the way they prepare and their outlook on their football going forward.”
Missen has also committed himself after re-signing with the club for a third season earlier this year while Terry Doukas will continue on as his senior assistant coach.
The support of the club and his playing group made Missen’s decision to remain as senior coach a simple one.
“Pretty much every player told me they wanted me to continue so that’s why I decided to stay in the senior coaching role. It’s an exciting time for the club and it was a very easy decision for me to keep going,” he said.
Amongst the excitement at Heidelberg Park includes the potential return of an under-19’s side, with the club aiming to field three teams for the first time since 2013.
Although the side has not been confirmed, Missen says that even the possibility of an under-19’s team coming back is a credit to the hard-working members of the club on and off field.
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge there, but we’re still working pretty hard to achieve that. It’s certainly something we’re excited about if we get it up and running,” he said.
If the side doesn’t return in 2023, Missen still believes that having that youth at the club can help his senior side next year and beyond.
“We’re always looking to try and get younger players and even if the 19s don’t get up, if we can bring in half a dozen to 10 kids that are under 20, it’s pretty good for the future of the footy club going forward,” he said.
The Hawks have wasted no time in recruiting new players to the club ahead of next year’s campaign. In the last few days, they’ve confirmed the signings of Banyule’s Daniel Kelly and Old Ivanhoe’s Dan Cookson.
They’ve also welcomed Connor Hehir (Marcellin), Max Post (Ivanhoe) and Dylan Scott (Gembrook) in the last month.
Missen is hoping the trio can have an immediate impact on the field.
“Connor has played first division football with Heidelberg and is a fantastic user of the footy, so we’re looking forward to having him give us more depth in the wing role,” he said.
“Max is a really strong competitor who comes from Ivanhoe where he’s played a lot of senior footy. So far on the training track he’s shown to be really smart, uses the ball really well and is a real competitor. We’re excited to see him slot into a role either as a midfielder or a forward.
“Dylan will play key back, give us some more support in the defensive half of the ground. He can play both forward and back too which is beneficial.”
With the morale strong around Heidelberg Park throughout the early stages of pre-season, Missen is bullish about just how far the Hawks can go next year, saying there will be no specific expectations set for his playing group.
“We obviously know that we’re coming from outside the finals picture last year so we’ve got some work to do to catch up on the opposition and we’re doing everything we can to achieve that,” he said.
“We’d rather shoot for the moon and land on the stars. We haven’t set any limitations on what we can achieve and we’re quite excited about what can open up for us in 2023.”