Eltham star Brent Macaffer is hungrier than ever to help deliver Eltham the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 premiership in 2020.
The Panthers have fallen just short of premiership glory in each of the previous two seasons, going down to Banyule in last year’s preliminary final after a grand final victory was snatched from their grasp by Lower Plenty a year prior.
But the reigning competition best and fairest winner believes this can be the year Eltham takes the next step.
“The last two years have been challenging. We should have won it two years ago and last year was sort of just a mess of a year in terms of injuries and off-field problems. But this year, I don’t feel like we need to change that much,” Macaffer told NFNL.org.au.
“I reckon that age group of players around 19-23 years of age, they’re the ones that need to start to take ownership for the club and not just rely on the top three or four players, which I reckon has been the way we’ve gone about it in the last couple of years.
“But already seeing in pre-season this year, we’ve had 12-15 guys in that age group doing their own training two to three times a week before pre-season even started.
“Half the club are running personal best times, we’re having the most numbers we’ve ever had at training and if they all come together, as well as the fact that we can stay injury-free, we can definitely contend again and play to that next level.”
Macaffer hailed the appointment of Robert Hyde as senior coach, with the legendary figure taking the reins from Macaffer and Michael Still – who guided the Panthers in the back part of 2019 following the departure of Paul King.
A three-time premiership coach at Greensborough, Hyde returns to the NFNL after a stint as coaching director of EDFL club West Coburg last season.
Macaffer credited the positive morale within the playing group during the pre-season to Hyde’s arrival at Eltham Central Park.
“Rob is as good of a signing as you can get. Easily our best recruit in the summer,” Macaffer said.
“The vibe he’s brought to the group and the knowledge that he brings towards the playing group is brilliant and it’s just really exciting to have him at the football club.
“I knew that he coached Dane Swan in TAC Cup and Swanny always spoke so highly about him, so when word gets around about potential coaches and that we were a sneaky chance to get Rob, I was pushing for it pretty hard.
“He’s been unreal at the club. A great person to work with, he brings a new voice to the club and I think it is all going to be really beneficial for us.”
The off-season has been significant for Macaffer, who made a long-term commitment to Eltham by signing a three-year contract.
The two-time Division 2 Coaches MVP said he couldn’t see himself playing for anybody else and now that he is committed, he has only one achievement on his mind.
“I always had it in my head that I wanted to sign a long-term contract, because I love the club. I love all the boys, all the committee, all the support staff and our massive fan base,” he said.
“The club came to me and for them to want to offer me a long-term deal, I didn’t hesitate to sign the deal and I’m absolutely stoked to play here for at least the next three years and hopefully more.
“In these three years I want to play in premiership so badly. The only other premiership I’ve been a part of was with Collingwood in 2010 and I was really young and didn’t appreciate it. I didn’t even hold the premiership cup.
“I just want to keep looking after myself and play good consistent footy whilst I still can. I’m 32 this year and you just don’t know how many good years you’ve got left so I want to make the most of it and hopefully silverware will be a part of that.”
Macaffer was also excited by the news that former Collingwood teammates Ben Kennedy and Alex Fasolo would also be playing in the NFNL in 2020, with the duo signing on with Montmorency.
The two-time Eltham best and fairest winner has been a strong advocate for former AFL players making their way to the NFNL and is looking forward to seeing how both Fasolo and Kennedy fare in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 this season.
“I know Ben loved Montmorency and he speaks so highly of that football club so to have him come back and probably dominate again is fantastic,” he said.
“It’ll be just as good to watch Fas play in the league as well. He’ll be interesting to play on. He’s a big personality. He’ll bring some good crowd numbers to the gate and his interactions with the crowd will be just as great.
“I know that when I’m able to that I’ll be getting down to watch those boys play.”