Top-agers taking charge at the Falcons

TIES between Geelong’s footballing pathways and the elite level have arguably never been stronger, especially after four of the Cats’ six total draftees in 2022 were taken out of the local Falcons program. In 2023, the next generation of Falcons are looking to take a path well traveled by en route to the AFL.

Coach Paul Corrigan says the likes of former skipper and number eight pick Jhye Clark have provided a “super” example for those paving their own way this year, amid what has been pride inducing recognition for the junior talent system.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate to have seven kids go to the Cats in the last two years, so it’s been great for our region and great support from the Cats to see our program and draft those boys,” Corrigan said.

“I think this next crop looks up to the likes of Jhye, ‘Teddy’ (Ted Clohesy) and the two Oscars (Oscar Murdoch and Osca Riccardi) that got drafted last year and have that belief that hopefully they can get there at the end of this year.”

Much like the class of 2022 achieved in year’s past, 2023’s crop of top-agers are set to take charge of the group with a wealth of experience under their belts.

Corrigan and his fellow Falcons staff had the arduous task of trimming 40 players from the 95-man preseason training list, with those who made the cut said to have come back in “good nick”.

“I think we had more numbers this year than we have in recent years,” Corrigan said. “I think the boys have acquitted themselves well throughout preseason.

“We did four of five weeks pre-Christmas and they’ve come back in really good nick after the break and they’re all looking forward to the practice matches now.

“We put a lot of games into our top-agers and they’ve led the way for our young crew coming through, which was expected. The guys that are with Vic Country are taking that on board as well and have made sure that they’re pulling the group together which is great.”

Among the outstanding 2005-born prospects are midfielder Patrick Hughes, forward Michael Rudd, and ruck Joe Pike. The trio was named in this year’s Vic Country talent hub alongside 2022 Under 16 All Australian Brady Hall.

They’re set to lead the way for the Falcons, who boast solid contributors on each line. Expect Angus Hastie to wax with over-ager Hamish Pierson down back, while bottom-agers like Xavier Ivisic and Zac McInnes continue the cycle of future development.

With one eye always on the next crop, Corrigan puts plenty of facets of the pathway down to finding a balance. From age profile, to identifying players who can specialise in certain roles, and essentially giving everyone a go, the Falcons always favour an even keel.

“We like to have versatility amongst our side,” Corrigan said. “We’ve always been renowned for being a good contested side but I think with our profiling this year, we’ll hopefully add a bit to the outside with our run. We’re a pretty fit squad so I think we’ll cover the ground pretty well across four quarters.

“We’ll give the top-agers a fair crack at the start of the season. If the bottom-agers are performing then we’ll keep them in the side too. We know how good it is to keep an eye on the future as well and get games into these bottom-agers also.

“Plus, we’ve got a fair crew that go to St Joey’s and the APS schools on our list as well, so we’ll have to juggle that and I think everyone will pretty much get a go this year.”

The Falcons are scheduled to kick off their Coates Talent League campaign on Sunday March 26, as they take on the Dandenong Stingrays at Central Reserve in Colac. Meanwhile, the girls squad turns out tomorrow afternoon at Deakin University under new head coach Mel Hickey.

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