AJAX FC Season Preview
Finally after almost six months on the training track, the ‘real stuff’ has arrived and the AJAX Football Club are ready to tackle the competition with a renewed vigour in 2016.
The club will be fielding an unprecedented five teams this year– seniors, reserves, thirds, under 19s (all in the Victorian Amateur Football Association) and a ladies team (‘Jackettes’-in the Victorian Women’s Football League), whilst the junior division will field 19 teams in the South Metro Junior competition.
Finishing in 5th place in 2015 and narrowly missing out on finals for the third consecutive year, re-instated Senior Coach Marty Pask and his newly constructed coaching group (Brendan Devlin & David Harris) have put the club’s players through a gruelling yet focused training program.
“Marty and his coaching staff have had a big focus on fitness, strength work and the development of our game plan”, club President Ronnie Lewis told AJAX Media.
Almost 50 players attended the annual football camp in Torquay six weeks ago, where the purpose of the challenging training program and education sessions was to give the players “the opportunity to create an even stronger bond” amongst the group.
“The B-Grade competition will be a tough one this year but I am really confident our boys will be super competitive. We have an improved midfield group and some exciting youngsters who have trained really strongly all summer. Senior spots will have to be earned as the depth of the group is very good", Pask said.
Aside from a number of additions to the coaching, support group and committee this year, the club also welcomes back former best and fairest winners Warren Steinberg and Josh Ludski.
In comparison to 2015, the club experienced a less chaotic time on the injury front this pre-season.
“We’ll get guys back for the full year who had injuries last year, then it’s the development of the next tier down who we put a lot of game time into last season. I’m after them to start owning a position on the ground, stepping up and having a say in results”, Pask said.
Last weekend the club formerly capped off the pre-season with an impressive 12-point victory over Old Trinity, last season’s A-Grade runners up.
“The wins are obviously what you get judged on, but for me it’s not so much that or the scoreboard. Any form is important going into the regular season but for me it has been about the continuity of our performances and getting some consistency, and getting guys up to match simulation speed and VAFA Premier B standard as best we can with the three games we played”, Pask said.
The coaching staff was able to have a look at the playing group in great detail over the three practice matches with a total of 27 players given senior opportunity, including Under 19s player Josh Baron.
There will be a strong link between the seniors, reserves and under 19s this season with the implementation of the game plan at these levels to facilitate a smooth transition to senior football.
“Age is irrelevant. The most important thing, is that they understand what we do and how they can help put this footy club on the right track. We need to look, find and get a good balance. If they are playing well they’ll get an opportunity at the highest level”, Pask said.
The Jackas opened their 2016 pre-season campaign with strong showings against Edithvale/Aspendale and Chelsea, both who play in lower divisions, however the club’s performance on the weekend against an A-Grade team showed ominous signs leading into round one.
“We put ourselves out there to be judged against a really good opponent. We certainly wanted to do that, it was intentional and deliberate playing them before round one. I wanted the guys to give a real good honest showing and I think we did that”, Pask said.
The reserves will be in the capable hands of Rob Paterson in 2016, with Matt Schmidt assuming an assistant coaching position.
Coming off a meteoric rise in 2015, the Thirds will once again be led by Daniel Slonim and Simon Jedwab who will be hoping their team can build on last season and win a final.
Former player Ash Shenker has been entrusted with nurturing the club's exciting young talent, as coach of the Under 19s.
Meanwhile, excitement has been high all summer for the club’s ladies team, the Jackettes, who are coming off Grand Final heart break in 2015. Tom Humphrey takes over the coaching reigns and comes to the club with a wealth of coaching experience, most notably in the VFL.
“After a richly successful inaugural 2015 season, the "Jackettes" are looking fit and ready to take on the higher grades in the VWFL. With three of our players training in the AFL Academy squad over summer, a fitter and more skilled group of returning players and the addition of some gun recruits, season 2016 promises to be another exciting one for our Women's team”, Club President Ronnie Lewis said.
Finally, on senior expectations, the Head Coach was bullish about the club’s chances in 2016.
“I’d hope they are ready for finals. Any time you start pre-season training, you want to be thinking about finals. I don’t think you plan for anything but finals, I say that to the guys all the time.”
“You’ve got to be prepared to do the work and understand what it entails to play in a final in B-grade. We’ve looked at how we can get to that point. We are not content with finishing 5th.”
“There would be nothing better than to give these guys an experience like finals.”
We hope to see you at the footy. Go Jackas!
AJAX Amateur Football Club
Media & Communications Manager