Round one last year the Gorillas beat the reigning premiers Labrador, in a game that had many thinking Grange would be a force in 2016. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Injuries never help, but that’s why a deep playing list is important. Like a lot of other clubs in the same position, the flipside was that they got to uncover some great young talent.
Into the Gorillas lineup come small forward Harry Milford and exciting midfielder George Hannaford from the University of Queensland, adding some much needed depth. Mark Desousa from the Essondon Football District is also a smart addition, bringing some experience and nous to the party.
Taylor McCubbin, Hugh Campbell and Cam Perkins are set to have an impact after returning from injuries last season, leaving the coaching staff with a few options. Looking at the forward line, senior coach Nathan Clarke will be hoping Declan Bevan, back from his time at Aspley, can have some scoreboard impact.
Steve Brittain is captain again for a reason and is looking like he has control over his injury issues.
During the off-season Nathan Clarke wasn’t planning to coach again, but the Gorillas position became available and the lure of coaching his old club was just too strong.
“You know, being my old junior club and my old man played a couple hundred games here, through the seventies and eighties . . . I threw my hand up and said I’d give them a hand and I couldn’t be happier,” said Clarke.
According to Clarke, the Gorillas will be hoping to replicate the attacking nature of some of the game styles now seen at AFL level.
“Probably no different to what we’re seeing in the AFL at the moment. Most of the teams are trying to score fairly heavily, it looks as though offence is the best form of defense at the moment,” said the coach.
“There’ll definitely be, I think, some exciting ball movement and scoring opportunities.”
Many would view Grange captain Steve Brittain as one of the top handful of players in the competition when fully fit, but managing a troubling back injury proved a challenge for the big-bodied midfielder last season.
“It’s been ok, a bit (of an) interrupted pre-season, but due to the length of it I’ve been able to manage it ok so I’m not feeling too bad now,” said the Gorillas skipper, referring to his back.
Due to the longer off-season it’s been important for the players to remain motivated and focused at training, something the coaches have helped with.
“Because we’ve had the three week later start, the pre-season seems to have just gone on forever. So Clarky and the coaching staff have done a really good job managing our time, physically and mentally, so it’s been good,” said Brittain.
The captain has also been pleased with the reception of the new coach and the manner in which the players have adopted the new game plan.
“Obviously with a new coach and new regime and different sort of game play it was difficult at first, but everyone has really welcomed him (Clarke). He’s so super organized and really informative, so it’s been great,” said Brittain.
The thing that the Gorillas have going for them is that they have so many more options than they did last year. They’ve recruited extensively and they have badly needed players returning from injury. Much of their success will depend on how experienced players like Desousa, can help out the younger players coming through. Their 2017 prospects look good, but Grange will have a battle on their hands for that last finals berth, up against some stiff opposition in the likes of Broadbeach and the Western Magpies.
By Sean Melrose