It’s easy to forget that Mitch Cotter is still only 21.
He’s already achieved so much in his still young football career to date – a graduate of the Dandenong Stingrays, which culminated in a top three placing in the 2017 best and fairest, VFL experience, a senior club best and fairest and premiership at his beloved Doveton, as well as the 2018 South East Football Netball League (SEFNL) MVP in his first year of senior football.
It’s a fair resume to date for a young man already incredibly respected in the region from team-mates and opponents alike.
But the hungry inside midfielder is still looking to stay in the hunt and improve his game further, and will take his talents to South Australia in 2021, with the bright young south-east star signing up for Norwood in the SANFL under new coach Jade Rawlings.
Cotter will head to South Australia to begin his new journey, alongside his partner Kasey at the start of next year, and told the Gazette of his excitement at his latest challenge, as well as the motivation to make the move interstate.
“I was speaking a bit to Gary Buckenara about it, and he honestly couldn’t speak highly enough about going over there and having a crack at playing there, and then speaking to Jade Rawlings I became really keen to get over there,” he said of the impending move.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, I can’t wait for the opportunity – I’ve heard such great things about the club, and the league.”
Cotter said that the SANFL and Norwood gave him the best possible chance of advancing further in his football career, and after a taste of VFL football, simply wants more chances at state-league level.
“I felt in the VFL it was always a bit stagnant for me – when you’re not playing in the ones, you just kind of go back to local and play,” he said.
“And the comp over there (the SANFL), if you’re not playing ones you can play in the twos, and you’re always under the club’s nose.
“It’s probably giving me my last best chance to play my best footy to be honest.”
The opportunity to play under Jade Rawlings, who has coaching experience with Melbourne, Richmond, Brisbane and North Melbourne, is also one not lost on Cotter.
“I can’t wait, I’ve heard such great things about him,” he said.
“I’ve got a couple of mates who have played under him at Casey, and they rate him so highly as a coach.
“And just from speaking to him about the move, I’m just so excited to play under him.”
Well-regarded as an inside-beast with a strong appetite for the contest and an elite tackler, Cotter said he’s looking forward to bringing his strengths over to the Redlegs, but hopes to continue building on other areas of his game.
“It’ll be hard to get away from it to be honest (the inside midfielder role) – it’s how I’ve always played my footy, it’s me, and it’ll probably always be me,” he said.
“But I want to adapt the other parts of the game, and improve in other areas, but that’s my strength, and I’ll be taking that over with me.
“I really want to go over there and not be a bystander, I want to play my best footy, but really test myself, and be a big part of the club.”
Cotter said that despite not getting to take to the field in 2020, it’s giving him the opportunity to build more strength ahead of hopefully a strong season at state-league level for the Redlegs.
“I feel like over this break, there’s been a lot of training by myself obviously with Covid, and I’ve felt that I’m coming into that age now where my body is really strengthening,” he said.
“I always felt like in my younger years, you can get pushed around a bit by bigger bodies, but I feel like I’m getting stronger now and I’m ready.”
Incredibly, the last game of football Cotter played was way back on 22 September, 2019 at the Woori Yallock Football Ground, where he played a starring role in helping Doveton to a senior football premiership against Pakenham, just a year after the Doves went winless in the final season of the SEFNL.
While the day brings back some incredible memories from a personal point of view, Cotter said it was a reminder of just how much importance football has in his life after all competitions were cancelled and not one game was played in 2020 due to Covid-19.
With Cotter originally set to join Port Melbourne in the VFL in 2020, it’s been a long wait to get back on the field.
“It’s one of the best days of my life winning that grand final with Doveton – I was just so happy we got it done,” he said.
“I’ll always cherish that day.
“But it’s definitely been one of the hardest years of my life, really – you don’t really have that outlet of footy, you’re just stuck inside all day.
“You can’t even really train one-on-one, talk to your mates at training, and kind of get that adrenaline going, so it’s been a really tough year.
“And after that grand final with Doveton, I was keen to get set for the next year, and have a red-hot crack at it, and obviously it’ll be a long wait for 2021.
“But I’m excited to get over there and have a go.”