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2016 Casey Scorpions preview

Matt Burgan  April 8, 2016 4:24 PM

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 6:Jack Hutchins of Casey  tackles Daniel Coghlan of Essendon during the 2015 VFL 1st Elimination Final  match between Essendon and the Casey Scorpions at North Port Oval, Melbourne on September 6, 2015. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 6:Jack Hutchins of Casey tackles Daniel Coghlan of Essendon during the 2015 VFL 1st Elimination Final match between Essendon and the Casey Scorpions at North Port Oval, Melbourne on September 6, 2015. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)

2016 CASEY SCORPIONS SNAPSHOT

President: David Dillon

General manager of football: Matthew Young

Football operations manager: George Morgan

Coach: Justin Plapp

Captain: Jack Hutchins

Vice-captain: Tim smith

Joined VFA/VFL: 1982 (previously Springvale)

Home Ground: Casey Fields, 160 Berwick-Cranbourne Road, Cranbourne East

Key recruits: Connor Ambler (Gippsland Power), Frank Anderson (Whitefriars), Tom Baker (Rosebud), Lachie Batten (Dandenong Stingrays), Liam Beacom (Upwey), Aaron Cotte (Eastern Ranges), Mitch Cox (Dandenong Stingrays), Aloysio Ferreira (Gippsland Power), Dylan Gordon (NT/Warburton), Daniel Johnston (Beaconsfield), David Johnston (Beaconsfield), Yarran Jaffer-Williams (Wodonga Raiders), Oscar McInerney (Montrose) and Todd Vander Haar (Old Xaverians)

Retained Casey players: Jackson Anderson, Bayley Fritsch, Jake Gains, Luke Hannon, Brenton Hillard, Jack Hutchins, Chris Johnson, Declan Keilty, Keegan Mason, Jackson McDonald, Jordan Moncrieff, Ed Morris, James Munro, Paul Pattison, Bryce Rutherford, Angus Scott, Tim Smith, Daniel Welsh, Tom Wilson, Kody Wilson and Tom Wyatt

THE MELBOURNE/CASEY ALIGNMENT

Casey coach Justin Plapp says the two clubs – Melbourne and Casey – have worked hard to build a strong alignment and it has already been a major focus over the pre-season and will continue throughout 2016.

“We’ve worked really hard, particularly in my first season last year. Melbourne identified last year that they needed someone to work at Melbourne and Casey full-time,” he said.

“One of the things that I really identified early was that the relationship could be better for our players and clubs. I’m trying to create a one club mentality, because we are. The demographic and situation that Casey’s in – being so far away from where Melbourne is – makes it really hard to do things together, compared to say a Box Hill or Sandringham.

“We are challenged that way, so we’ve come up with strategies around how we can get the players to train together more – getting the Casey boys into Melbourne more and using the facilities.

“We had some Melbourne players come out to our jumper presentation the other night. We had the first and second-year Melbourne players in attendance, which was a significant step forward in regards to the relationship and what the alignment’s about.

“We’ve trained with the Melbourne players, played intra-club matches and had team dinners. Not a lot of things have been done in the past, but we’re starting to do it more and it’s starting to pay us back handsomely.” 

THE COACH

Now in his second season as Casey coach, Plapp says the whole professionalism and intensity of the club has lifted considerably and it’s a position he is relishing.

“I’m really enjoying it and love the role. I spend three or four days a week at Melbourne educating myself and being involved in the day-to-day coaching of the Melbourne players. Then I’m out at Casey three days a week. I jump in the car around 2pm and I’m out there by 3pm, and then setting up training, organising lists and development plans. I also spend time with our coaches out there,” he said.

“There is a lot of travel and time involved in it. Being out there three nights a week, sometimes I mightn’t get home until 10 or 11pm, after starting at 7am. So it can be demanding from that point of view, but I love the challenge of trying to mix two very different cultured groups.

“A lot of our players are tradies and live out in the south-eastern suburbs. We’ve also got a lot of kids at Melbourne that are starting their AFL careers, and they’ve got massive expectations. Some of them aren’t very patient, in terms of where they’re heading, so I find that a great challenge.

“The rewards that we’re getting out of it – when we have success – are very fulfilling, so I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at the moment. I really enjoy it – time will tell how long I stay in the system – but it’s something I want to continue to do, develop and get better at.

“I really enjoy working with the people that I do – from a Melbourne and Casey point of view – and the people that we have in our program are terrific. They’ve got nothing else but the players’ best interest. They want to get the best out of them.”

THE CASEY COACHES

With a restructured coaching set-up, Plapp says the coaching staff is now able to take the development of the Melbourne and Casey players to another level.

“Last year when we had Brad Miller, who was full-time at Melbourne, he was our midfield coach. He was spending one night a fortnight at Casey and on game day with me. I had two other part-time Casey employees,” he said.

“This year, Daniel McPherson and Brett Allison will be full-time line coaches and I’ll be head coach. Brett will be doing 18-man defence and Daniel will be offense and ball movement coach. We’ve also got [former Carlton, Swan and Kangaroo player] Darren Ogier, who is a new employee and is part-time at Melbourne and also at Casey as a part-time coach. He also does some teaching outside of football.

“Basically, the change is that we’ve got three Melbourne people that are spending time at Melbourne and at Casey. Darren is three nights a week at Casey and one day a week at Melbourne. Brett and Daniel come out one night a week at Casey.

“We’ve also got Paul Carbis, who is our Development League coach and three assistants underneath him. George Morgan was initially going to do that, but he’s now doing the footy manager’s role.”

COMINGS AND GOINGS

Casey has added several youngsters to its list and a couple of mature-age players, which Plapp believes will only benefit the squad.

“There have been two or three significant mature-age players join the club, including Tom Baker, a key position player from Rosebud in the Mornington Peninsula League. He kicked a lot of goals down there and his early pre-season form suggests he’s going to have an impact at VFL level. We see him being a handy player for us,” he said.

“We’ve got a guy named Dylan Gordon, who has played at Warburton and come down from the Northern Territory. He’s a mature-age player and has played state league in the Territory. He’s shown some really good upside and will spend some time playing senior footy.

“We’ve got a lot of young kids from the TAC Cup and we believe they’ll be our most talented group in the club’s history. We’ve got six or seven kids from Dandenong Stingrays who played at Vic Country last year. We’ve got four or five kids from Gippsland Power, which includes Lachlan Batton and Jake Lovett, the son of Brett Lovett, and James Freeman and Cory Machaya. Aaron Cotte from Eastern Ranges, along with Connor Ambler and Aloysio Ferreira from Gippsland Power are other youngsters to join the club.”

“We’ve lost Evan Panozza, who was a 10-year player. He’s a life member of the club and was getting on the side of that age bracket, where he was coming towards the end of his VFL footy. We’re certainly going to miss him from a leadership and performance point of view. Mitch Gent is another player who left. He was at the club for four of five years and had consolidated a spot in the best 22.”

“We’ve changed 26 players, so we’ve either moved on players or they have left on their own accord, so we’ve had a pretty big change over. A lot of those players are younger kids. We have 48 on our list, plus the Melbourne AFL-listed players.

“There might be seven or eight players miss out for Casey and return for their local side in round one. Normally it’s about two or three most weeks, so it’s competitive for spots. There is a cap of around 15 of 16 [Melbourne players in the side each week], but there is not a lot of times we get to play that many.

2016 EXPECTATIONS

Plapp said creating the best environment possible for his team was his aim for 2016.

“My philosophy is that I’m the head coach of the VFL program and I want to be able to create the best VFL program possible for our VFL players,” he said.

“I think there has been a lot of negative language around the VFL, rightly or wrongly. We make sure the alignment is viewed positively from a Melbourne and Casey point of view.

“Everything is based around trying to create the best environment possible, so when the Melbourne players are playing for Casey, they’re getting the best development possible. We make sure they’ve got an environment that has the resources. For the Casey players, we try to create an environment where they develop as well. We also want to create a winning culture, even though we are developing, so we try and balance the two.

“We make sure we leave no stone unturned and we maximise the time we have together. We make sure it’s the best possible place we can and maximise the people we have.

“Overall, we think we’re going to be pretty competitive and if we have some luck with injuries – like every alignment – we think can have some significant improvement on last year. We know we’ve got a good squad together and we know we’re going to be competitive.

THE VFL IN 2016

Plapp said Williamstown would again be the benchmark, but a host of clubs are in the mix to stake their claims in 2016.

“It’s certainly becoming a younger man’s competition. When I played in it around eight years ago, most of the players were around 24, 25 or 26 years old. I think the average age of the VFL is around 22 years old,” he said.

“A lot of these kids in the VFL are still trying to live the dream, and our club is a good example of that.

“I think Williamstown, last year’s premiers, remains the yardstick of the competition. Apart from that, I think a lot of teams will be based on week to week scenarios such as injuries. Some teams can look completely different from one week to the next.

“We could be playing 15 or 16 Melbourne players one week and then eight or nine the next, due to injuries. That can impact performance.

“But I think Williamstown remains the yardstick and then you could throw a blanket over about six to eight clubs next.