Both Colac and Newtown & Chilwell have regenerated their lists through trusting their youth in 2017, and once more the young talent will be on show in the final round of 2017.
Five straight losses late in 2016 stole any chance of finals action for Newtown & Chilwell. Enter former Perth and Claremont assistant Damien McMahon.
“I knew we were going to have a very key development focus,” the first year coach said.
“My goal is to have 80 per cent of our team each week who are home-grown talent. We think the season has been successful from that point of view.
“We’re showing improvement week by week.”
Seeing Newtown’s reserves side win the Premiership in 2016, McMahon has used 35 players as well as blooding six debutants this year, including 17-year old Connor Joseph, who was originally around the group just to train, but ended up impressing so much, this weekend will be his 12th senior outing.
Last weekend, Matt McMahon was the only Eagle to have over 100 games of GFL experience. Michael Condy and Braden Hocking were the only other players to have greater than 50. Incredibly, Newtown had 11 players with less than 20 GFL senior games. Despite all this, up to a fortnight ago they were challenging for the final five.
For Colac coach Kane Leersen, two words sum his attitude to seeing his young players propel the Tigers back up the ladder.
“It’s exciting,” Leersen said.
“These boys can drive the culture of the footy club. It doesn’t matter about age; these guys have that opportunity to drive the culture.”
The passion in Leersen’s voice is obvious as he speaks of the young group who are assured of a finals spot this season, after missing out in 2016.
The first-year coach doesn’t want concerns about structure and style to overwhelm his youngsters, believing instead in just letting instinct and natural ability take over.
“The scope for improvement is almost higher because they’re so young and really only just starting senior footy. I just want them to enjoy and get the best out of themselves,” Leersen said.
“We don’t have too strong guidelines in place (structurally), we just instruct them to go out there and enjoy.”
Many of Colac’s younger stars have come through the Geelong Falcons pathway, like ruckman Zach Zydbel and key defender Tom Rieniets, something Leersen believes gives them “a pretty decent understanding of footy already”.
With eight players 21 years or younger and a big finals series awaiting, the sky is the limit for the Tiger pups.