Unfinished business driving Turtles

Published on Thursday, October 28, 2021

Author : Josh Ward

Old Eltham Collegians men’s football coach Matt Sleeman believes his side has unfinished business to complete in 2022.

Sleeman last month signed on for his second season as head coach after guiding the Turtles to a fourth-place finish in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 this year.

But having their hopes of playing in their first NFNL finals dashed due to the Covid lockdown, Sleeman says his side is desperate to make up for the missed opportunity.

The Turtles have made waves during the off-season, signing 11 players and re-signing the majority of their 2021 playing list.

Among the players that will call Eltham College home in 2022 are former NFNL representative Tom Rogers, his Eltham teammate Matthew Keys, Lalor duo Bradley Johnstone and Jonathan McCartney and returning duo Ben Gill and Mathew Crooks, who both played with the club when it competed in the VAFA.

Sleeman told NFNL.org.au the signings would bolster the club in areas that needed improvement.

“Matt Keys is big, solid and a good mark. He might play at either end of the ground,” Sleeman said.

“Ben Gill will be our dominant forward target. Crooksy will play ruck and Tommy Rogers will play somewhere in the middle.

“They really give us that nice spine that we lacked a little bit.”

Sleeman said he was particularly excited about the signing of Rogers, a three-time NFNL representative who has previously been named in both the Division 1 and Division 2 Team of the Year.

“He’s going to add a lot to our pace and our speed across the ground and bring that professionalism and a bit more knowledge from a higher standard,” Sleeman said.

Sleeman said he was excited to see what impact new signing Jack Snow from West Preston-Lakeside could have, having previously coached Snow at both under-17 and under-19 level.

“He’s a really exciting young player. A high-flyer and hard at the footy, he’s got a lot of strengths,” Sleeman said.

“He’s going to come into the side as a younger player. I think he’s only 22. I hold him in high regard, and I really think he’ll develop as a key midfielder for us.”

While pleased with his club’s haul of recruits. Sleeman hasn’t promised them automatic selection into the senior side.

“I haven’t promised anyone we’ve signed a senior game, including the older guys. They’ll be selected on form and commitment,” he said.

“With the new signings we’ve got, everyone will be putting their best foot forward and making sure they’re playing at 2pm each week.”

Old Eltham Collegians were one of the competition’s best defensive sides in third division in 2021, conceding an average of just 58 points per game.

Sleeman said he wanted his side to continue to focus on its strong defensive structures in 2022.

“We kept a lot of sides to under 10 goals and our total against score for the season was really good when you compare us to other sides,” he said.

“I thought we would’ve still had the best defence in the comp without really changing much.”

Old Eltham Collegians will commence its pre-season campaign on November 23

And after a promising 2021 campaign, there’s already a positive feeling at the club ahead of the new season.

“A lot of guys like to do their own thing in the off-season, but the main thing is something is better than nothing and, so far, it looks like everyone’s doing something,” he said.

“It feels like we’re in season right now. We’re speaking daily about recruits and daily about how pre-season is going to go.

“We absolutely can’t wait. Guys are texting all the time. They really want to get started ahead of season 2022.”

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