Pakenham is counting down the days until the 2021 AFL Outer East season.
Not just to get its footballers and netballers back at Toomuc Reserve to have a crack in the high-quality Premier Division, but to welcome the sport-adoring local community back with open arms.
It’s been a tough 2020 from a sporting-industry perspective, and Lions president Travis Hamilton said that while it’s been a massive challenge for his club, they are eager to get back out there and make a fist of it in 2021 and put the year behind them.
“When we thought we were playing footy, we were all really excited,” he said.
“The hardest part was thinking we were going to play, and then virtually pulled the pin within a matter of days.
“The disappointing part of it is the hard work that’s gone into the football, the pre-season that was started back in November, to a lot of our players it was very disheartening.
“As a club, it is what it is, and we have to re-group now, and hope for bigger and better things in 2021.”
The Lions are looking to carry on with the momentum gathered from the 2019 season when the senior side finished runner-up in Division 1 in a brilliant grand final against Doveton.
The club also snagged a reserves premiership to cap off an incredibly successful year for the club.
And the first piece of the puzzle is locking away highly regarded coach Ash Green to once again lead the charge, with the renowned development coach steadily improving the list each year as it now looks to the big challenge of Premier Division.
The club has also re-appointed Shane Easton to coach the reserves, and brought Tom Dalton up from the junior football club to coach the Under 19s. Ian Shaw will once again lead the 2021 women’s side.
Hamilton said that the excitement is building for the club in 2021, and believes the coaching group can help take the list to the next level after gradual, and noticeable improvement over the last few seasons.
“We’re thrilled with our senior coaches, with Ash Green to get back on board is great, he’s a terrific development coach,” he said.
“His immense hard work last season with the youngest squad nearly paid off, and we were really looking forward to this year, but now look to next year.”
After a taste of Division 1 football and almost snagging a premiership in 2019, Hamilton said that the club as a collective believe they can make a real impact in the Premier Division and embrace the step up with plenty of youth and experienced players at the core.
“It’s definitely a year (2020) we were looking forward to, and our Under 19s season was a bit of a set-up, putting together a new side, and we were making progress” he said.
“With a couple of younger kids coming through and having their time in the senior squad, they’ve had a taste of it now and will have another season so it’ll be really good for the club next year.”
One of the biggest aspects of community football is the fans that in any weather come out in droves to support – the vibrant bar, canteen and the buzz created each and every week.
It’s an element that Hamilton has missed seeing in 2020 at Toomuc Reserve all around the league, and said that he simply can’t wait to welcome everyone back.
“We’ve got a strong history, we are 107 years old this season, and we have a lot of great supporters and members,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to putting 2020 behind us and looking to bigger and better things in 2021 for the club.
“I’d like to personally like to thank our supporters and members for sticking with the club and the well wishes they’ve sent on to the club is much appreciated.
“We’d like to appreciate our sponsors who have stuck with us through thick and thin, and all the support is very much valued by us all.”