Fundamentals set to drive Knights north

AT the core of the Northern Knights’ individual and team development is one thing all Coates Talent League regions strive to strengthen – fundamentals. New boys head coach Anthony Rocca, a graduate of the program himself, is adamant that along with a team-first approach, the basics are exactly what will yield success for the his side in 2023.

“Everyone has a different degree of where they are with each fundamental; whether it’s kicking, marking, ground balls and so forth, so we’re continually working on that to become individually better players,” he said.

“But in our team if you’re not doing the team-first stuff, you will not play. Regardless of who you are. From my journey as a player and a coach for a long time, the best teams in the competition will work for each other as one, so if you can’t do that you won’t play. But most of them are doing that well.”

The Knights are fresh off a finals appearance in 2022, where they got within two goals of securing a preliminary finals berth. Fast forward through some key changes in personnel ahead of the new season, and the team’s “method” at both ends of the ground is very much in development.

“We’re working on how we can move the ball in the best way possible for us as a team, with our method,” Rocca said. “Also the best method to defend, because I think at this level they’re starting to come into an age where they’ve got to learn how to defend and defend as a team.

“We keep preaching that whether you’re a good player or a standout, it doesn’t matter, the team comes first. If you do all the team-first stuff, then your individual flair will stand out.”

Nate Caddy (right) is a star in the making | Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Speaking of standouts and individual flair, there it’s hard to look past Nate Caddy as Northern’s best prospect. The high flying top-age forward is highly touted as the nephew of premiership Tiger Josh, but will have a delayed start to the season due to a fractured fibula.

>> FEATURE: Caddy primed to spread wings post-setback

He is one of two Knights to have been named in this year’s National Academy. The other is 2023 co-captain Will Green. At over 200cm, the developing ruck will skipper alongside fellow tall Christian Mardini, who returns from an ACL tear.

Green and Caddy were among the “obvious” standouts to have caught Rocca’s eye throughout preseason, though there are a couple of other names to jot down – including another father-son candidate for Richmond.

“Obviously you’ve got the two boys who are in the Metro squad and National Academy in Will and Nate. They’re really professional and just want to get better every day,” Rocca said.

“The ones that are really catching my eye are the likes of ‘Naishy’ (Charlie Naish). He’s a good runner but doesn’t know it until he’s pushed to get up with the elite runners of our team. I reckon you’re going to see a different him this year.

“We’ve got a boy in our team Kristian Ferronato, he’s from a basketball background but he’s an inside bull. He’s strong as an ox, loves tackling, is hard to tackle, and he just turns up constantly from contest to contest. Obviously there’s things he can work on but those two have impressed me pretty highly.”

Northern kicks off the 2023 Coates Talent League season tomorrow morning in a clash against the GWS Giants Academy at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Following a road trip to Wangaratta, the Knights’ first home game comes in Round 3 against the Eastern Ranges.

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