Looking back, many of the Morningside faithful will be disappointed they didn’t make the finals in 2016. It was a bitter pill to swallow for such a strong, proud club. Throughout the year though, they showed they are a team that can match it with the heavyweights of the competition and the club would have been ecstatic with their first win over Labrador since 2014. Five wins in a row to start off the season had them looking threatening and they’ll be looking to do the same again this year.
Nathan Kinch and Matt Logan will be looking to have a big impact again, while Sam Godfrey is looking sharp heading into the start of the season. Younger players Ben Bisset and Scott Munro have also been training strongly. Both Logan and Matty Serrurier looked good for the Panthers in their practice match against the Western Magpies.
A grueling pre-season should have the Panthers ready for their round one encounter with last year’s grand finalists Palm Beach Currumbin. New coach Steve Wildschut, was happy with their off-season progress and just like his players, is itching to get the season underway.
“The boys are working hard, they’ve really adapted well, we’ve increased in the past couple of weeks, (and we’re) looking forward to playing some games,” said the Panthers coach.
At Jack Esplen oval there’s been a long-standing tradition of developing from within, as opposed to outside recruitment, something the coach has been eager to stick to.
“We don’t actively go out recruiting and I won’t compromise the history or the culture of the club, to go and do that,” said Wildschut.
The focus for Morningside leading into season 2017 is on being relentless at the contest, regardless of the scoreboard or the game situation. It’s an approach that’s seen Morningside maintain a high standard of football for a long time.
When it comes to the new game plan, a lot of it has come from Wildchut’s coaching background, but it’s also been a collaborative effort with valued input from the players.
“Collectively we’ve all worked together and come up with something that, hopefully, we think will stand the test of time,” said Wildschut.
The game plan was discussed during a visit to Camp Warrawee in Petrie, which also involved the players choosing their own leadership group and a mix of physical, bonding and educational activities.
The club has a heavy focus on young talent development and Panther fans will be hoping for some natural progress from those players to go with contributions from the senior core.
“I’ve been really pleased coming into the club that everybody seems to grow, on different nights we’ve had kids from the 19s or guys who played reserve grade last year, really standing out,” said the coach.
“We’re really building from underneath and I’ve been really happy with the colts kids coming through, the reserve grade guys won the grand final last year, so we’ve got a fair bit to work with there.”
Co-captains Nathan Kinch and Matt Logan are eagerly awaiting the demise of a long off-season and when the real stuff starts, plan to emulate former Panthers greats Kent Abey and David Lilico.
“I’m not saying we’re up to them, maybe Kinchy is, but I suppose (we’ll) just keep that kind of feel around the club and I suppose try fill their footsteps,” said Logan.
The Panthers will have no difficulty getting motivated for round one and the group are itching to take on the Lions.
“You always get yourself up for round one and to have a good challenge like one of last years grand finalists is something that we’re really looking forward to and building up to, it’ll give us a good indication of where we’re at,” said Kinch.
Both players are in for the long haul and are training accordingly.
“You can’t go hell for leather straight out, straight off the bat, so yeah, it’s about doing all the little things and making sure you can turn up and play week in week out,” said Kinch.
Morningside are a strong club with a distinguished history and at times last year looked dominant. A new coach and game plan will have the Panthers hoping to snag a finals berth in 2017. Steve Wildschut is an experienced and well liked coach that will have the players playing for him, perhaps all the way to the finals.
By Sean Melrose