HAS Pascoe Vale been Strathmore Community Bank Premier Division’s biggest under-achiever of late?
While injuries were a factor, for last season at least, coach Kyle Hardingham might think so.
The Panthers dropped back to the pack after two consecutive finals appearances with an 8-10 record in 2017 – Hardingham’s first year in charge as a playing-coach.
“Last year I honestly reckon we under-achieved, really,” Hardingham told essendondfl.com.au.
“We lost a lot of close games early on which could have gone either way, and they were just to do with making real key errors when the game was in the balance.
“So we’ve gone out there to recruit some older heads, just to be able to help with that.”
It was yet another impressive recruiting campaign by the Panthers, landing three ex-AFL players.
Ex-Kangaroo Lachie Hansen will re-unite with Gavin Urquhart, Daniel Harris and Ben Ross and is arguably the best EDFL recruit of the summer.
Hardingham isn’t yet sure how Hansen will fit into his side.
“We haven’t 100 per cent sorted out where we want to play him,” Hardingham admitted.
“So potentially we could see him up forward at stages and we all know the one thing he’s really good at is that contested marking, so we hope we can use him to our advantage.”
Returning junior Matthew Watson is major boost for the club in its centenary year and he will slot straight into a forward line that sorely missed Ben Warren last year.
“It just gives us another tall option,” Hardingham said of Watson.
“He’s just going to be someone that’ll straighten us up because he demands the footy and he’s that big-bodied forward.”
Finally, Patrick Veszpremi returns to Landells Road after two seasons with Essendon Doutta Stars and will play a key role down back.
Add to that the handy pick-up of gun Eastern Football League forward Shayne Allan and suddenly Pascoe Vale is seemingly back in premiership contention.
“I feel like we’ve got more depth now that if we do have injuries, we’re going to be able to cover them in terms of having a real push (for the flag),” Hardingham said.
“I just think we’re going to go by the old cliché, just take each four or five rounds at a time, see where we’re at and re-assess.
“But there’s no reason why, if we’re fully fit, we can’t shake it up a little bit, but I’m not going to put my finger on where exactly we’re going to finish.”
A tricky start to the season has Pascoe Vale facing the two most recent premiers in Aberfeldie and Keilor before taking on 2017 finalists Strathmore, Maribyrnong Park and Greenvale, all in the first five rounds.
Key Ins: Lachie Hansen (defender, North Melbourne), Matthew Watson (forward, East Fremantle), Shayne Allan (forward, Noble Park), Jarryd Graham (midfielder, Castlemaine), Patrick Veszpremi (defender, Essendon Doutta Stars), Sam Caruso (midfielder, East Burwood), Eamonn Ogden (midfielder, Keilor) & Jason Blakemore (midfielder, Canterbury)
Keys Outs: Chris Peart (St Bernards), Dylan Reid (Darley), Matthew Vesnaver (Coburg Districts), Anthony Lewis (retired) & Zach Peake (Tooleybuc Manangatang)
First Month: Aberfeldie (away), Keilor (home), Strathmore (away) & Maribyrnong Park (home)