Youthful Sharks set to strike

Hillside will play Keilor Park on Good Friday. (Ljubica Vrankovic)

Oliver Lees

New Hillside coach Chris Daley believes his young side can do some damage this year in division one of the Essendon District Football League.

The Sharks had an impressive end to last season, finishing in fifth place with 11 wins and seven losses.

In the first week of finals they upset fourth placed St Albans.

Despite falling to Rupertswood in the semi final by 47 points, Daley said his current list is well placed.

“We have an average age of around 22 and 23 so as young as the group is, we still managed to make the five and win a final,” he said.

“They’ve played 40-50 games together as a senior group now and we’ve been adding the experience around them with some quality players from outside the club.

“Hopefully that gives some leadership on the ground.”

Daley has been announced as the new head coach of the club after spending two years as an assistant.

He replaces Charlie Denaro who had been leading the senior side since 2020.

Denaro has been quick to get to work in the off season through the player market.

Former West Coast Eagles draftee and Calder Cannons vice-captain Damien Cavka has joined the fray.

Cavka was forced to retire in 2016 before he could play a match in the AFL due to a stress fracture in his right foot, but has now sufficiently recovered.

The Sharks have also welcomed brothers Fortunato and Natale Caruso.

Both of them have played representative for the Calder Cannons.

Fortunato Caruso has had a particularly notable career, winning the Morrish medal in 2005 and 2006 and working his way on to joining the Coburg Tigers in the Victorian Football League.

For the most part however, the Sharks remain unchanged from the side that snagged a finals win last year.

Lachlan Pettigrove and Mitchell Hearne each featured in the division 1 team of the year and have remained at the club.

Bailey Ryan, who finished with 50 goals last season, has had his clearance to join the Essendon Doutta Stars approved.

Daley said it was encouraging the club had such a high retention rate.

“We only lost a couple, 95 per cent of our list basically signed before we announced coaches,” he said.

“It’s been fantastic and we haven’t really had to go chase too many in fact we’ve had a couple knocking on the door saying they are keen and interested in what we’re doing.

“Our culture within the group has been great, so we don’t want to disrupt that.”

He said it’s an exciting time at the Sharks.

“I had a vision of coming to the club a few years back, I coached against some of them at junior level and I knew the potential from a talent perspective,” he said.

“Our program has been really strong and now we have two senior girls teams now which is enormous.

“The club is just growing and growing.”

The Sharks kick off their season on Good Friday against Keilor Park.