Ranges “itching” to rip into season proper

A FULL bill of health is what all coaches and players alike hope for on the eve of any season, and it Is exactly what the Eastern Ranges have in 2023. Head coach Lauren Morecroft, the first woman to take on said title for a Coates Talent League boys squad, says summer has been smooth sailing for her side.

Stacked with top-age talent and notable under-agers to keep an eye on, the Ranges have taken a unique approach to their preparation for season proper. By breaking down their three weekly training sessions in to themes, each player has undergone an “education” of sorts.

“At this stage of the year they’re really itching to get into games,” Morecroft said. “We’re in a really healthy spot in terms of our list.

“We probably take it down a notch in terms of match sim leading into the games and focus in on education. We remind them that we’ve got a long season ahead, and just make sure they’ve got a long-term view in play.

“We’ve focussed on each night being a different theme. Monday’s are for offence, Tuesday’s are defence, and then we’d do a bit of match play on Thursday night… just to see every player in different positions, but also to see if we can get our education right in terms of defence and offence.

“It’s worked really well, the players have been really responsive to it.”

Nick Watson is Eastern’s top prospect | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central

Eastern boasts a high of seven representatives in the Under 18 Vic Metro talent hub, headlined by National Academy member Nick Watson. The pocket rocket forward has already established himself as a genuine top 10 talent, having booted 18 goals in seven Eastern outings last year.

He was among a few prospects to have impressed Morecroft over preseason, with a couple of others having earned leadership roles. Namely, they are co-captain Brayden LaPlanche, who skippers alongside Josh Tovey, and vice-captain Cam Nyko.

“Our (top-agers) are going really well and they’re really keen to put their best foot forward in the first four games of the season and showcase their talent,” Morecroft said.

“In terms of the ones who have really impressed me, Brayden LaPlanche has come on really well over the summer, his leadership has really improved.

“Cam Nyko as well being in the leadership group, you’ll see him probably roll through defence a little bit and through the middle. Those guys have had a really good summer uninterrupted.

“The obvious one is Nick Watson, everyone’s excited to watch him play but I think you’ll see him come up the ground a little bit more as well.”

With a wealth of promising individual talent comes the challenge of balancing each of their personal goals with team success. Given the pathway system is hardly about the wins and losses, Morecroft says her program aims to showcase the weapons of each player and maximise their development.

This year, the Ranges will do so with a touch of flair, too.

“I think it’s really important for us that our focus is about getting the best out of ourselves,” she said. “Winning isn’t really on the board for me, it’s about maximising the players’ development as much as we can.

“We’ll play guys in different positions, we’ll try and educate them that way and get them to showcase and shine, but if we win games that’s a bonus. It’s definitely more about development and we preach that pretty heavily in our program.

“We’ll play a fast brand of footy, we’ve got a fair bit of speed in our team and some good talent with our talls up forward. So getting the ball in quickly and being a high-pressure type of team who will look to force the turnover and score the other way.”

Eastern’s Coates Talent League campaign gets underway on Saturday March 25 with a clash against reigning premier, the Sandringham Dragons at RSEA Park. Teams for both sides are set to be announced shortly.

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