From season 2015 to season 2016 there were some important steps taken at the Hawks. There was genuine, albeit gradual, improvement and with it came a lot of positives. Youth has been a priority at Sandgate in recent years and last year was no exception with many young players getting some exposure. The faithful will be expecting a few to mature this year and deliver on their potential. The Hawks will be aiming for a better result than last year’s four wins and 14 losses.
Tom Overington will again be relied on to shoulder the bulk of the midfield workload throughout the season, but the mantle fits comfortably on the two-time Grogan Medal top three finisher. Aden and Liam Rutledge will be important as will Benn McElligott and Ben Beavan. Sandgate has been relatively quiet on the recruitment front and look set to continue to develop from within.
The QAFL’s longest serving senior coach, Graham ‘Bomber’ Adams, has seen the game change over the years and knows it will continue to evolve again in 2017.
“I think it’s a lot more structured than it ever has been, a lot of clubs have very good game plans and I suppose if you’re not up with all the modern day game plans and so forth, you’re going to get left behind,” said Bomber.
Heading into the season the approach from Sandgate will again be emphasizing young talent development.
“Last year we played a lot of young fellas, this year again we’ll be young, but we put a lot of games into a lot of our players last year and we believe now, two years down the track, by putting 40 to 50 games in a lot of these boys, that you’re going to see natural progression,” said the coach.
They may have young players, but there’s still an expectation that a certain standard is maintained. “We just want to be competitive every game we play, we want to be renowned as being a hard, physical side and a skillful side as well,” said Bomber.
The focus going forward for Hawks skipper Aaron Fabian, who showed flashes of brilliance in the 2016 season, is more about continuing to develop his leadership than his on-field performance.
Unfortunately, Fabian sustained an injury over the break and has only recently resumed full training. “There was a lot of rest, a lot of physio and a whole lot of stretching,” said the Hawks captain.
For Fabian the captaincy is a special achievement and the half forward will be doing everything he can this season to lead the Hawks to a few wins.
“For me personally it’s quite a big thing, I’ve been a part of this club since I was, you know, born, really. My whole family played here,” said Fabian.
“Bomber gave me a start in seniors when I was 15 so its been one of my dreams to play a hundred games here and be senior A grade captain, too.”
Much of Sandgate’s success this year will depend on the emergence of their younger talent, so it remains difficult to gauge where they’re at this year. To improve on 2016’s four wins they’ll need a broader spread of contributions on game day, they can’t place too much reliance on their star players delivering each week. Expect the Hawks to show improvement again in 2017, but while anything can happen, finals seem unlikely.
By Sean Melrose Follow @seanmelrose