New South Morang playing-assistant coach Gary Moorcroft is looking forward to the opportunity to develop the young Lions playing group as the club embark on their return to the MC Labour Division 2 competition.
Moorcroft has had one of the most storied NFNL careers following his retirement from the AFL in 2003.
The forward kicked 578 goals in 172 games for Bundoora between 2011-2019, becoming a crucial member of the club’s three Division 1 men’s premierships in 2011, 2013 and 2017. He’s also a two-time Division 1 men’s leading goalkicker, six-time Division 1 men’s Team of the Year member and a premiership coach with the Bulls’ women’s side in 2018.
He joins South Morang following their premiership triumph in last year’s Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 grand final, where they defeated Laurimar by 15 points, with the result sending the club back to Division 2 for the first time since 2013.
The Lions announced Moorcroft’s signing last year, alongside the recruitment of his son Beau who also returns to the NFNL after 44 senior games for Bundoora between 2015-2019.
Watching his daughter Chloe’s partner Samuel Hutton take the field in last year’s grand final, Moorcroft grew impressed by the talent on show from the Lions, describing it as the initial catalyst behind his decision to head to Mill Park Lakes Reserve.
“I was pretty impressed with the young group they had there as I was watching and then Beau had some interest and said he wanted to go there and play,” he said.
“From there I sort of put my hand up and thought I could help out the young kids as they go into Division 2.”
The Lions are in good stead heading into the 2023 campaign, with their senior and reserves sides coming off premierships while their under-19’s team claimed the minor premiership in Division 3 last year.
With the potential talent at hand, Moorcroft’s ambitions with the club from a coaching perspective stem around player development as well as continuing to build on the strong chemistry illustrated by all three sides.
“I just want to help the young kids and try and guide them in the right direction as they step up to play Division 2 footy,” he said.
“I suppose it’s also about giving them that mentality on what’s required to step up to a pretty good standard of footy, as well as training requirements.
“Gary Hall [senior coach] has been there for a long time and has had that group through junior level together, so they know each other’s football back to front. That’s been the pleasing part, watching them train and seeing the camaraderie between the group. It has been fantastic.”
Moorcroft last pulled on the boots in 2021 when he made four appearances for the Bulls’ reserves side, kicking an impressive 24 goals.
The 46-year-old is hopeful he can add to his exceptional goal tally this season by making some appearances inside the Lion’s forward 50.
“I’ll aim to play a few games, hopefully the body holds up. I haven’t stopped training since I finished so I’m still pretty fit which is good,” he said.
“I’m just going back to try and enjoy myself a bit rather than have that Division 1 mentality where it was win at all costs.”
Ahead of their return to Division 2, the club have been able to lock away some important recruits to bolster their squad.
Along with the Moorcroft’s, the Lions will add Coburg VFL listed player and 2018 Northern Knights best and fairest Josh D’Intinosante, two-time Division 2 men’s Team of the Year defender Lachlan Potter and Macleod player James Traianou to their side.
All three players were previous juniors at South Morang and in addition to a tight-knit playing group who have played many years together, Moorcroft believes the Lions can hold their own in the competition.
“I think we’ll go pretty well, I’m hoping, from what I’ve seen, we can finish middle of the table which would be a promising year for a young side,” he said.
“You never know who can win in that competition, you’ve got your standouts from the recruiting side of things in Eltham, Diamond Creek and Panton Hill, but if we can get a couple of big scalps early, that would be huge.
“I think the fact that the whole playing group have been together for so long will be such an important thing for us going forward.”
South Morang open their MC Labour Division 2 account at home to St Mary’s.