Watsonia coach Jarrad Carey believes a top-four finish is not beyond his playing group as it prepares for its second season in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2.
Carey has taken over as Saints coach from Corey McCall – who stood down from the role following three successful seasons.
The Saints held their own in second division last year, finishing sixth with a 6-12 record and a respectable percentage of 69.95, after winning the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 premiership in 2016.
Preparing for his first season at the helm at A.K. Lines Reserve, Carey said he wouldn’t put a ceiling on what Watsonia could achieve this year.
“We want to be competitive. We want to be able to play four quarters every week. We want to improve and we feel like we will be able to and be tough to beat,” Carey told NFNL.org.au.
“I don’t want to put targets on the amount of games we want to win, but we will go into every game thinking we can be very competitive and if that’s the case then there’s no reason to think why we can’t make finals.
“If we bring the effort that’s required, then the current group currently has the ability to play finals.”
Carey said no drastic changes would be made to the club’s playing style despite the change in coaching staff, believing McCall has set the team up for a successful future.
“I wouldn’t have thought there would be too many changes,” Carey said.
“Corey has done a great job as coach these last few years. He has made my job easy as this group can definitely play good footy and he obviously got the club to that Division 3 premiership in 2016.
“We are really similar in our footy philosophies and although we are different people and have different personalities, we both value the elite effort that comes with footy and the competitiveness.
“Corey was all about playing an exciting brand of footy, and we’re certainly no different.”
Since taking the coaching reins Carey has brought in Northern Saints midfielder Kieran Sheehan, Northern Blues-listed tall Sam Peet and high-leaping South Morang utility Daniel Watson.
Carey expected all three to have a positive impact at their new club this season.
“Sam Peet has been fantastic. The level of professionalism and effort that he brings to the side has been enormous and he is probably one of our fittest players and best uses of the ball, so we are very excited to see what he brings,” Carey said.
“Kieran Sheehan’s pre-season has been absolutely fantastic. He’s put in a lot of work and his leadership skills have been terrific. Kieran will be a very handy player for us running through the midfield, so we are happy to have him on board.
“Daniel Watson is one I am very excited about, because if he remains fit, then he will be one of the better pick-ups in the entire league.
“Daniel is unique as in he is just as effective down back as he is as a half forward. We will experiment with him during the pre-season, but I really like his ability to read the play when he is playing across the half back.”
The new recruits are not the only players who have impressed during the pre-season training program, with Carey excited by young forwards Adrian Alfonsi and Kyle Page.
A premiership player in 2016, 22-year-old Alfonsi last year led the club’s goal kicking with 31 majors, while Page booted 15 goals in seven senior appearances.
“I’m really excited by young Kyle Page,” Carey said.
“He spent a lot of time last year in and out of the seniors but his pre-season has been sensational (and) he hasn’t missed a beat.
“He will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself as I am very pleased with his skills and I think he is one player that is really going to annoy the opposition.
“Adrian has been sensational all pre-season and we are looking to play him a lot more in the middle this season as he has built up his tank and he is hard at the footy. He is a dangerous player and we are excited to see if he can prove himself a bit more.”
Watsonia will host Craigieburn in a twilight practice match on the eve of its Round 1 clash against Banyule at R.J Brockwell Oval.
Carey is optimistic ahead of the opening round, believing his side has put in the hard yards during the summer.
“The coaching group and the players are really happy with how things are going so far and we feel like we will be ready to be at our best come Round 1.
“The older group has really embraced the new players coming in and you can start to feel that cohesion coming together at training and hopefully we can put it all together once the real stuff starts.”