Devils being hunted

Dan Jordan and Brett Bewley (Jamie Morey Photography)

Harper Sercombe

The hunters of the Ballarat Football League have become the hunted and Darley is ready to embrace the pressure that comes with it.

After tasting premiership success last season, Devils’ coach Dan Jordan said there is more to come from his young side. Which was again made younger with three premiership players hanging up the boots.

Darren Leonard, Shane Page and Jacob Zeestraten all retired at season’s end, paving the way for youth to take over.

“That’s just the evolution and the nature of footy clubs,” Jordan said.

“That’ll provide opportunities for some other guys who are putting in strong pre seasons and willing and keen to slip into some of those spots.

“We’re a pretty young group and we think we’ve got a fair bit of development left in us. We’ve also got a good young crop of boys coming through that we’d love to try and put some pressure on spots.”

Amongst the youth are seven Victorian Football League affiliated players, with many still fighting it out for spots on lists.

Mace Cousins (Geelong), Bailey Young (Footscray), Lucas Impey (Williamstown), Joel Cadman, Mitch Ward (both training at Port Melbourne), Will Johnson and Adam Azzopardi (training with Geelong) are all pushing for spots at the higher level. While it may mean more time away from Darley, Jordan said he couldn’t be more supportive of his players exploring their options.

“We’re completely supportive of their opportunity and it’s a great thing for the club to see those guys get recognised and move on to higher levels,” he said.

“Cousins played a lot of VFL footy last year so we probably wouldn’t expect to see him a lot but if the others could get a list position, fantastic and if they could get some exposure to VFL footy that would be great as well.

“It probably just means that they’re training with us just one night a week, but most of them are pretty comfortable with how we play and the roles and expectations we have of them when they’re with us so I don’t see it being too much of a difficulty.

“I’ve been on the other side of the fence as a VFL coach so I try to support that as much as possible. They only return to us as better footballers.”

The Devils have had a reasonably quiet off-season from a recruiting perspective, as Jordan said his focus has been set on building and developing the crop he already has.

“We didn’t focus too much on recruiting,” he said. “Having said that, we’ve got a few new faces with Mikey Edwards who was a really nice recruit for us coming across from Banyule but he unfortunately did his ACL playing cricket a couple of weeks ago.

“Brady Wright coming back full time this year is pretty much a new recruit.

“Mitch Hovey coming from St Josephs in Geelong will fill a bit of a big man void for us that we haven’t really had the last couple of years.

“I’m a big believer in that your depth comes from your bottom five to 10 players… that’s where I generally focus my attention, and having a strong reserves program that can put pressure on the seniors.”

Darley will kick off its premiership defence against East Point on Saturday, April 13.

“They seem pretty hungry, the challenge is now to be the hunted.”