Sport

Seymour Lions face pressure on to make final six again

By Meg Saultry

Facing a myriad of moving parts this off-season, the prospect of going backwards isn’t one Seymour is willing to accept.

After returning to the final series last year, the Lions’ path to the top six was at times flimsy – their effort against lower-ranked sides failed to compare to that of playing higher rivals, while three one-point victories were their saving grace that pushed them into flag contention.

But with a loss of talent and depth this year, Seymour will need to solidify its stocks to make sure it features in September action.

“Definitely we’re not looking to go backwards,” co-coach Ben Clifton said.

“We were able to play finals last year, which we should have done, and we probably should have finished higher too.”

The addition of Ben Davey as co-coach will be crucial to Seymour’s success, with a more disciplined style of play set to come into effect.

“I think for us, with Ben coming in as a full-time non-playing coach, and with his knowledge, we’ll be much more structured on field, which will improve the inconsistencies in our game,” Clifton said.

“That’s what will help us start our offence and defend in a more structured way.

“We’re not just relying on talent and this is a springboard to allow our players to play better and attack in a more methodical way.”

But in a blow to their on-field prospects, star midfielder Jason Cole is likely to suffer a delayed start to the year, with an elbow injury continuing to plague the club’s reigning best-and-fairest winner.

“Jase is looking to play, but life and earning money come first,” Clifton said.

“He needs to get his arm right, then footy is a bonus. He is impatient, so we’ve had to almost send him away to get right first. He’s unlikely to play early.”

With the club losing a considerable amount of depth from its premiership-winning reserves squad, the large influx of last year’s under-18 talent, who’ll filter up to reserves and seniors, meant the Lions didn’t recruit too heavily this off-season.

Among the group are highly rated prospects Dylan Cook, Hudson Kaak and Sam Durham, who have all been training with Richmond’s VFL team this pre-season.

“Numbers-wise with our under-18 talent, we didn’t need to go out and recruit wingers and flankers,” Clifton said.

“We just needed to make sure we’re a bit taller across the field.”

FAST FACTS

JOINED LEAGUE: 1940; 1976 TO PRESENT

NICKNAME: LIONS

GROUND: KINGS PARK

CO-COACHES: BEN CLIFTON AND BEN DAVEY

PRESIDENT: GERARD O’SULLIVAN

PREMIERSHIPS: 1976, 1981, 1982, 1991, 2005, 2006, 2007

MORRISON MEDALLISTS: C. FROELICH (1940), G. LIDDELL (1978), J. SOLOMON (1989), S. SCHOTTNER (2004)

2019 FINISH: FIFTH (9-9-1)

2019 BEST-AND-FAIREST: JASON COLE

2019 LEADING GOAL-KICKER: JAKE ANDERSON (29)

IN: Ryley Conlan (VAFA), Nick Davey (VAFA), Tom Davey (VAFA), Tom Goodwin (AFL Outer East)

OUT: Michael Bradbury (Golden Rivers), Chris Jackson (NFNL), Alex Johnson (WRFL), Tom Martin (Avenel), James Wooster (RDFL), Jordan Zuccala (Avenel), Max Jones (Avenel), Harley Taylor-Lloyd (Benalla All Blacks), Mitch Mclean (Heathcote District), Matt Martin (Nagambie), Tyler Clarke, Rhys Clarke (EDFL)

FINISHING RANGE: 5TH – 9TH 

Seymour was on the edge of several close results last year and if just one of those one-point wins went the other way, a return to finals would have been off the cards.

If the Lions can’t muster the same pressure they do in high-stake games to those they should be winning comfortably, they’ll fall out of reach of the top-six.

But if they can shore up their consistency issues and cover their depth then Seymour will finish around the same mark as last year.

GAME CHANGER: Zac Keogh

Faced with the prospect of losing partner in crime Jason Cole for part of the season, Keogh – in his second campaign with the club – will need to step up and carry the load through the middle.

He’ll have support in the likes of Dylan Scopel and Tom Freeman, but it’s Keogh’s experience as an interleague player and Vic Country representative that will help a younger Lions brigade work through their toughest match-ups.