Whittlesea senior men’s recruit Lucas Hobbs is prepared for a new challenge alongside a few familiar faces ahead of the club’s return to MC Labour Division 2 in 2024.
The Eagles endured a difficult 2023 season in Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1, going winless in the home and away campaign to fall back into Division 2 for the fifth time in 15 years,
But there’s new hope at the Whittlesea Showgrounds, with the hype starting in August last year, following the announcement that respected coach Garry Ramsay would be taking the reins this season. 2015 Eagles premiership captain Andrew Fairchild also joined him as an assistant.
The eagerness for the upcoming season grew two months later when the club confirmed that their homegrown star in Hobbs, would come back to the club.
Hobbs played five years of senior football at Whittlesea, making 99 appearances and kicking 208 goals during his original tenure. He went on to star in their 2010 and 2013 Division 2 flags, also winning the club best and fairest award in both years.
His past nine years have been with Macleod in Division 1, where he achieved further success in 2015 with another premiership, while also claiming the Frank Rosbrook Medal in 2018.
Ahead of his return to the blue and gold, Hobbs explained how his decision to head back home was driven by thoughts of family, community, and re-uniting with Ramsay, who he played under for four seasons at the Roos.
“Once he [Garry] signed, there we had a bit of a conversation and it sort of all worked out really well because I live up this way so it’s the only way with family stuff now that I can commit to playing football,” he said.
“A lot of the faces have changed, but it’s always a club that’s pretty isolated, so everyone’s really close-knit, sort of like a community club.
“I’m looking forward to playing back with that club and obviously with Garry, it’s been five or six years since he left Macleod so it will be an exciting way to finish off for me.”
With Ramsay in the coach’s chair, new structural ideas and a focus on discipline is hoped to excel the playing style of a team in need of change.
From already seeing Ramsay’s influence at Macleod, Hobbs is one of many to have been positively impacted by the acclaimed coach and as such, is willing to adapt his approach to play toward whatever suits the side best.
“Hopefully for me it’ll be a bit more up forward, but I said to Garry, we’ll take it as it comes. I’m sort of happy to help wherever I need to play,” he said.
While a young core at Whittlesea continues to develop, they look to have a greater chance to improve in 2024, with the added years of experience that Ramsay and Hobbs will provide to the club.
The Eagles recruit went on to acclaim some promising new teammates that he is excited to play alongside this year, some from a premiership past that helped play a role in his decision to come back to the club.
“Max Dyson and I played in a couple premierships together so that was sort of exciting to get back to,” he said.
“There’s a couple of other mates in the two’s, a couple of the older guys, so it’s good to train and get back into a social circle there as well.
“Mitch Andrews also looks like a bit of a player, he won the best and fairest there last year and is obviously still pretty young, so I think he will go well.
“I think they’re all committed [to 2024] and once you can get to that commitment level and the training is sorted, then hopefully the results can speak for themselves.”
Whilst the side struggled to compete with the top sides of the competition in their 2023 Division 1 campaign, Whittlesea will be hoping to extend their success in Division 2 this season.
Since 2010, the Eagles have gone on to win the Division 2 flag each year after being relegated from the top flight the season prior, resulting in premierships in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2019.
Whilst bringing that consistent form to Division 1 is still a long-term goal, Hobbs believes the opportunity for the Eagles to be competitive again in Division 2 this season will bring a wealth of benefits for the entire club in years to come.
“It’s a good way for them to get a bit of confidence by being back in Division 2 and then sustaining it for the next couple of years,” he said.
“There’s a lot of young talent and it’s a close group, so I can see some success not too far down the track hopefully.
“From past experience, it’s always the top half of teams which would always play to a high standard, and I think they are generally not too far off from some of the bottom half of Division 1 teams.”
With a celebratory past and new foundations of experience, the Eagles will plan to extinguish the challenges the club has faced in the last 12 months by another flag to the trophy cabinet.
Hobbs has seen early signs of a rejuvenation at Whittlesea during training sessions, some of which even taking place on Christmas Eve, that have only further cemented the club’s determination to taste success.
“I think you want to go into every year sort of aim as high as possible, that’s probably the best way to get to success at the end of it,” he said.
“There are faces getting down to training and pre-season which at other clubs you won’t see anyone down there during pre-season but because it’s in Whittlesea, and that’s the community.
“But from what I’ve seen the list is pretty solid, I don’t think they’ve lost a player, and they do have a lot of experience and with a bit more structure with Garry coaching, I guess anything could be possible.”