A busy transfer period, headlined by the signing of former AFL star Jarrad Waite, has Whittlesea men’s football coach Blair Harvey optimistic for the 2022 season.
The Eagles have set themselves the challenge of becoming a competitive force in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 after finishing in ninth place on the ladder in their return to the top-flight in this year’s shortened season.
Waite, who played 244 games for Carlton and North Melbourne, headlines an impressive list of additions at the Whittlesea Showgrounds, that also includes former AFL midfielder Corey Wagner, Benalla forward Brody Webster and North Heidelberg midfielder Curtis Brown.
The 38-year-old has committed to the Eagles as a playing-assistant, having spent the past two years with St Kevin’s in the VAFA.
Speaking to NFNL.org.au, Harvey believed Waite was the perfect acquisition to advance Whittlesea’s development on and off the field.
“He’s pretty excited about the young group of players we’ve got coming through and he wants to be a part of that,” Harvey said.
“I think he’ll be massive for us. We struggled to kick goals so him playing at full forward for us, he’ll be a real focal point for our forward line.
“What he’ll be able to do is educate those players on the ground.
“To have someone like him out on the ground being able to lead these young fellas is going to be crucial for us going forward as a football club.”
Joining Waite in the Eagles’ forward line will be Benalla’s Brody Webster, who signed with the club in October.
A versatile forward, Webster booted 156 goals in 93 games for the Goulburn Valley league club, including 45 majors during the 2019 season. He also claimed the best and fairest in 2017.
Harvey is confident the combination of Waite and Webster will be a threat in 2022.
“Brody’s a proven goal kicker so hopefully he produces a similar output for us next year. It was an area we thought we needed to improve in, we needed to find goals,” he said.
“Our best goal scorer this year was Paul Higgins who was also our best defender, so we know we had to do that and by getting Jarrad and getting Brody in straight away we’ve got two quality forwards coming in.”
The Eagles have also bolstered their midfield stocks with VFL duo Corey Wagner and Curtis Brown both listing Whittlesea as their nominated home club in 2022.
Wagner played 19 AFL games for Melbourne and North Melbourne between 2016 and 2019 and has affiliated with Whittlesea while he continues his VFL career with Port Melbourne.
The hard-running Brown is currently listed by North Melbourne’s VFL side. He played 10 senior games for North Heidelberg, including seven this year.
Harvey applauded the commitment of both Wagner and Brown to the Whittlesea program despite being listed with their respective VFL sides.
“Corey is more of a long-term prospect for us,” Harvey said.
“He still wants to be able to play league football and we only expect him to play three or four games for us, but he still wants to be a part of the club.
“He’s not just a name that we’ve got put down and just think we’re not going to see him. He’s made it very clear that he wants to have an impact on our group of boys that we’ve got.
“(Curtis) has got a lot of good friends down at the football club. He’s got a good connection with the boys and he’ll be huge for us.
“What he brings work-rate wise and he’s still pretty young with his development as a footballer, so we’re hoping that he can grow with our young group as well.”
Despite the quality coming into the club, there have been some key departures from the Eagles’ nest over the off-season, most notably three-time premiership players Nathan Andrews and Nathan Stefanile who have moved to Laurimar and South Morang respectively.
But with the majority of the 2021 list re-signed, as well as an influx of younger players joining the club, Harvey is optimistic about what the future holds for Whittlesea.
“With the signings that we have got, it’s created a lot of excitement within the club,” Harvey said.
“Only three players from our list this year have moved on, so we’ve re-signed 95 percent of our playing list while adding four or five strong recruits.
“We’ve also been lucky enough to pick up about 10 of who we think are the best juniors from areas like Yarrambat, Mernda and Laurimar. A lot of these kids that we’ve picked up are in the Northern Knights or Calder Cannons programs.
“There’s some really quality kids that we’ve been able to get that will not only strengthen our under-19s but hopefully push to play senior football.”