By David Nagel
The opportunity to have a huge impact on the famous colours of the Hampton Park Football Club has arrived, with the club desperate to sign players ahead of the 2017 South East Football Netball League season.
The Redbacks have a new executive committee, they have money, and a new coaching panel ready to pass on a wealth of knowledge and experience to a hard-working list of players.
They have loyal sponsors and supporters, and an atmosphere set to be enhanced by past-player reunions to commemorate 20, 50 and 60-year premiership celebrations.
Now – to complete the picture – they just need bums on seats in the change rooms!
The Redbacks have a positive outlook for the future, with their governing body – AFL South East – set to deliver divisional football in 2018.
This implementation will allow clubs like Hampton Park to find its watermark, to be competitive for the first time since its last finals appearance in 2011 and bring some much-needed vibrancy back to Robert Booth Reserve.
But first, they need to get there.
Make no mistake – this is a pivotal moment in the history of this great club that has built rivalries with foes like Beaconsfield, Berwick, Cranbourne and Narre Warren since the mid 1950s.
Off-field, the club is well managed, but winning just four of 84 games since a mass exodus of players crippled the club at the end of that 2011 season – well it’s finally taken its toll.
The club appeased its players in 2016 with a rumoured move to the divisional structure of the neighbouring Southern Football League.
It’s a move that never eventuated, with some club insiders and SEFNL keen to continue a long-lasting relationship.
Co-club president Mick O’Brien, a man who spilt blood, sweat and tears for the red and black, is one who is desperate to see it continue.
“All the hard work that we’ve done off-field over the last few years has put us in a really financial position, left us with a war-chest, but attracting the right player to the club has always been the hardest part,” O’Brien explained at training on Monday night.
“What’s happening on-field is not a true reflection of what’s happening off-field right now. We thought if we put the club in a financial position things would build from there but we probably underestimated just how hard it is to attract players when you’re not winning games of footy.
“We just need to get one, then two, three, four players, and start building a group that will fight through 2017 and then reap the benefits going forward.”
O’Brien and the club’s executive have changed their focus, looking to rebuild the club from the ground up, starting with its coaching department.
New head-coach Dean Warren is perfectly suited for the task, with a Level 3 coaching accreditation and previous success with VFL development squads.
O’Brien is confident that if the players commit, Warren and his staff can have a huge impact on their individual and team development.
“We just need players, guys who want to put their hearts on their sleeve and have a crack at senior football,” he said.
“We’re in a unique situation to provide that opportunity. We want to build with a group, put a younger side on the park and watch that group grow towards success. We want a nucleus that might go through some tough times now but will enjoy some success down the track.”
Co-president and football manager Tim Ziegler said the club was still waiting on a commitment from several of the 45 players that have hit the track in the pre-season.
“There are probably 10 to 12 that we are still in negotiations with, those that have been to training and are still deciding their futures,” Ziegler said.
“Obviously we’re trying to do everything we can to reassure the players, yes we know it will be tough, that this is the place to be going forward. We’re having talks with a few new blokes as well.”
Players wishing to discuss a possible future with the club can call O’Brien on 0411 420 155, Ziegler on 0412 814 842 or Warren on 0415 378 211.