2024 Darley Pre-Season Preview
With pre-season preparations well under way and Round 1 quickly approaching, Scoop has gone one-on-one with all 11 senior football coaches ahead of the 2024 McDonalds BFNL season.
COACH: Dan Jordan
Previous Experience/Accolades: Former Essendon AFL Assistant Coach (Essendon 2020-21), BFNL Hall of Fame Member, Darley 2023 BFNL Premiership Coach
ON THE RECORD
SCOOP: Firstly Dan, congratulations on your flag success just two years in with the Devils. To win virtually out of a pigeon shed with home ground renovations going on suggests the group is pretty tight and able to maintain focus (won last 10 games on the trot). Rate the nature of the group given your 20+ years in footy...
DAN JORDAN: Regarding facilities - It’s what you make of it, the 'home' is essentially the group and the people within it, we think we're well led and endeavouring to be well connected. We try to focus more on the 'what haves' than the 'have nots' and allow people to feel comfortable being themselves. We think they're the key ingredients to being a good club, not the physical facilities.
SCOOP: You said dealing with expectation after two finals in 2022 would ask questions of your relatively young group. Surely defending a flag comes with its own level of raised expectation. How as a coach do you go about restoring motivation and the need to improve?
DJ: Expectations are more often external. We welcome the challenge being the hunted and are keen to stand up. The group enjoyed the successes of last year but are well aware of the work that is required to achieve. We'll need a bit of luck with injuries etc along the way and are hopeful being in the mix for a top three finish.
SCOOP: You'll have to get it done this year primarily without Mace Cousins (Geelong VFL), ruckman Lucas Impey (Western Jets) and experienced multiple premiership winning trio Shane Page, Darren Leonard and Jacob Zeestraaten. Page is the big out given he's barely 30. Soldier out, soldier in doesn't fit the Page solution. Has he simply had enough?
DJ: Teams are always evolving - it's very rare you have the same side from one year into the next. I'm excited for the opportunity that has opened up for a few of our youngsters. On (Shane) Page, he's reached a time in his footy where he thinks he's got nothing left to give. We'd love to have him around the club in some fashion.
SCOOP: There's no ceiling on what impact a fit and healthy Brady Wright (6'4') can deliver for the group. Where does he fit into the mould given he's a 'rare' tall among your best 22?
DJ: We're hoping Brady can play a Darren Leonard type role for us but we won't be rushing him given he's coming off a significant injury. While a slow integration is more likely we're excited about Brady's prospects. He's added more size and strength and we know he can certainly play.
SCOOP: You've had a relatively quiet off-season in the marketplace. Has that been by design, or has it been difficult to find the piece(s) you're after?
DJ: Bit of both. Our priority was re-signing all of our (available) players from last year’s grand final so the focus will be on improvement within.
DJ: Flexibility, adaptability, connection, pride, avenues to goal.
DJ: Young guys challenging selection - finals are often won on the back of 'bottom six' contributions.
Progression of our mid-tier players impacting games. Top end is sound.
MOST UNDER AND OVERRATED STAT IN TODAY'S BFNL FOOTY
Goalkicking accuracy – Underrated, Clearances – Overrated, the 'nature of' is more important.
DJ: Came back late due to Grand Final appearance. We'll ramp it up pretty quick - the players are familiar with what is required. In 2022 we worked on building fitness, 2023 teaching and now 2024 will endeavour tinkering with the plan for improvement.
Mikey Edwards (Banyule), likely more to come.
Darren Leonard (Retired), Shane Page (Retired), Jacob Zeestraaten (Retired), Blake Colley (Ballan), Trae Van Leith (Ballan), Billy Sullivan (Melton).
VFL AFFILIATED PLAYERS
Mace Cousins (Geelong), Bailey Young (Footscray), Lucas Impey (Williamstown), Joel Cadman (Port Melbourne training), Mitch Ward (Port Melbourne training), Will Johnson (Geelong training), Adam Azzopardi (Geelong training)
SCOOP: It is a tougher H&A assignment in store for the reigning premiers. Get 4/5 remaining finalists from last year twice - Melton, North Ballarat, Sebastopol and East Point - also likely improvers Sunbury and Bacchus Marsh. A season of two halves really for Dan Jordan's men with just two games (Melton South and Lake Wendouree) in five weeks through the middle stages of the season from June 2nd to July 12th. Expect a testing season ahead for the new benchmark premiers who remain unbeaten in their previous 10 BFNL games. The Devils would be happy with a top three finish ahead of finals.
PRACTICE MATCH SCHEDULE
March 23 v Rowville (H)
April 6 v Lara (A)
IMPROVERS TIP (OUTSIDE OF DARLEY)
DJ: East Point and Ballarat
FLAG TIP (OUTSIDE OF DARLEY)
DJ: North Ballarat - more improvement to come.