Panton Hill coach Steve Layt believes an increased presence of leadership will be the key for a successful season as his side prepares for a return to Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3.
After a stint as the Redbacks’ reserves coach, the experienced Layt has taken over the senior role from Joffa Byron after the Redbacks were relegated from A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 in 2017.
There haven’t been too many victories for Panton Hill to look back on since its Division 3 premiership triumph in 2013 – winning on average just under four games per season during its four-year stint in second division.
But Layt is confident the tables will turn in 2018, telling NFNL.org.au the growth and progress of leadership became the silver lining during last season’s disappointing campaign and will ultimately be the dominant asset for the Redbacks this year.
“Our leadership group gained an enormous amount of experience through adversity,” Layt said.
“That was the positive out of all the season really. In a one-win season it is pretty hard to get any positives out of it.
“But the development has been awesome.”
Layt expressed the benefits that such development is already having within the playing group as he shifts the mindset at Cracknell Reserve to a more successful and positive attitude.
“It was important to have a completely different mindset this season, going from a survival mindset to a winning attitude again,” Layt said.
“We had an intra-club game last Monday night and even though it was an intra-club it was certainly a really positive outcome for the whole group.
“The entire approach by the players, as well as the confidence levels of the whole group, has lifted by sharing their knowledge with each other.
“They’re helping each other and they’re leading together.”
Panton Hill has made a variety of changes to its list throughout the off-season, which includes the key departure of Tom Blake – who won both the Division 2 Coaches Player of the Year and club best and fairest in 2016.
However, Layt’s focus is on the arrivals at Cracknell Reserve, including Greensborough trio Rhys Boyden, Brent Ryan and John Pritchard, as well as Tim Duckworth who has returned from Lower Plenty.
Both Boyden and Ryan were part of Greensborough’s 2014 Division 1 premiership team and will provide stability at both ends of the field.
Boyden booted 199 goals in 100 senior matches for Greensborough and finished second on the Division 1 goal kicking table in 2015, while Ryan returns to the NFNL following a strong season with Seymour, where he was named in the best players in nine of his 19 appearances.
Layt believes each of the recruits will fill crucial gaps that were exposed last season and will ultimately provide Panton Hill with more of an attacking playing style.
“With the influx of the new players and of the recruiting that we have completed, they certainly know how to win games of footy,” Layt said.
“The defensive group has been strengthened with Brent Ryan and Tim Duckworth so that definitely fixes such a vital problem we had.
“You can include Callum Stubbs into that area as well. A young and upcoming ruckman and key forward to join with Rhys (Boyden) and ultimately it helps us have a more offensive game plan because they are quality players.
“We think all in all, it will help us become a better group this season.”
The Redbacks kick off their 2018 campaign against Mernda at their home at Cracknell Reserve on April 7.
Images courtesy of BlueStream Pictures