As he prepares for his return to the NFNL, Old Eltham Collegians senior men’s recruit Brent Macaffer is determined to produce the impact on and off field that will help the Turtles take the next step in their quest for premiership success.
Macaffer spent four years across the road at Eltham between 2018-2021, where he won a Division 2 best and fairest and two Division 2 Coaches MVP awards. However, he fell short of claiming silverware at the club, with a grand final loss and a preliminary final exit being the results of his two completed campaigns with the Panthers.
He’s spent the last two seasons at the Tooradin Dalmore Football Netball Club in West Gippsland. His tenure there included an impressive 2022, in which he helped the club win the premiership, while also finishing as the competition’s best and fairest.
Macaffer’s arrival at Eltham College comes as the Turtles look to go one better than their Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 preliminary final appearances in the previous two campaigns, although the reserves did win the club’s first piece of NFNL silverware in an upset grand final victory last September.
The recruit outlined his intentions to return to the NFNL once his stint with Tooradin Dalmore finished, and when it came time to do so, positive meetings with Old Eltham Collegians attracted him to make the switch.
“I always wanted to come back to the NFNL and play, I live in Eltham and loved my time in the NFNL,” he said.
“A couple of my best mates were playing in Tooradin, my wife’s family are from Tooradin and my Mum lives in Pakenham, so it just made sense to go.
“My plan was to go there for a year. I went down there and did that, won a flag, but it was a pretty dominant team and I thought, you can’t not go again, so I played again, but it didn’t pan out the same.
“I always wanted to come back and play in Eltham… and luckily enough, the Turtles reached out, showed interest and within a week of speaking to them, it was done.”
Whilst he boasts an impressive local footy resume, Macaffer brings with him plenty of experience from AFL level, having played 77 games with Collingwood between 2009-2016, which included being a member of the 2010 premiership side.
Although Macaffer will be 36 by the time the 2024 season gets underway, he feels as fit as ever and believes he can make a sound impact on the field for the Turtles.
“Personally, I feel like last year was the best year I’ve ever had local footy wise. I’m a bit pedantic, I know I’ve got a good routine and I listen to my body,” he said.
“I feel fresh, and I still love the game which I think helps. I still love playing, I love being around a footy club environment, being around younger guys, and my kids and family all love coming to games.”
In 2023, Old Eltham Collegians snuck into the top four on percentage with a 10-6 record. A 24-point semi-final victory over Kinglake saw them reach a second consecutive preliminary final, however they were unable to match it with eventual runners up Mernda, falling by 36 points.
But while the club was unable to feature in the final game of the season, their ability to contend with the top sides of the competition aided Macaffer’s desire to join the club.
“I’ve only been there for six sessions pre-Christmas, but already being there, I can see how keen and eager this club is for success,” he said.
“We’ve brought in some great recruits… so by adding a bit more class to the mix, and not having really lost much, all directions are going to point to getting better.
Those ‘great’ recruits include Macaffer’s former teammate and Panthers captain Bradyn Taglieri who comes to the club after over 130 senior games with Eltham.
The 35-year-old will also be reunited with other ex-Panthers such as Matthew Keys and Matthew Williamson, who have each played vital roles at the club over the last two campaigns. Meanwhile Eltham senior women’s premiership coach Darren Cardamone has too made the trip to Eltham College as the club’s reserves coach.
Macaffer is thrilled to join forces with some of his former teammates again in 2024.
“It’s great to link up with a couple of ex-Panthers. Getting Bradyn Taglieri over, who was one of my best mates at the Panthers, is just massive for the club, another one that brings experience at local and VFL level too,” he said.
“I kept in touch with Willo [Matthew Williamson] for a little bit last year, and he’s just raved about the club and how much he’s enjoyed his time there so far.
“Matthew Keys, having him there as well, he only played three or four games last year, but he’s committed to playing a lot more footy this year which is automatic improvement.”
Old Eltham Collegians have also recruited Michael Glouftsis and Campbell Prior from Panton Hill, Bryce Fleming from Broadford and 208cm ruck Ben Taylor from Powerhouse (VAFA) so far this off-season.
They will also welcome the return of (NFNL) inaugural club best and fairest winner and Team of the Year member Kieran Malone after spending 2023 at Warrandyte.
While Macaffer has tasted premiership success at both AFL and local level, his drive for more silverware is still strong, adding that his hopes of team success outweigh any thought of wanting further individual accolades.
“I don’t really put any personal expectations on myself other than to make sure I prepare and train the best I can in the lead up so I know that when it gets to Round 1, I’m as fit as can be, well-prepared as can be, and when I do that, it generally translates into me having a good season of footy,” he said.
“What that looks like from a personal accomplishment point of view, I don’t know. What I do know is I desperately want a flag at a footy club that I plan on playing out the rest of my career at.”