A CRASH course in coping with senior football this year bodes well for Peninsula Strikers’ assault on the 2023 State 2 South-East championship.
That’s the belief of Strikers’ defensive midfielder Calvin Delaney.
The 20-year-old (he turns 21 on 30 November) was part of a major squad makeover overseen by his father and senior coach Donn during last pre-season and early signs drew derisive commentary from many onlookers.
“Of course we heard the criticism but it was way too harsh,” Calvin Delaney said.
“Anyway we were too excited about the season and we didn’t care about the negativity.
“A lot of us were playing our first year of senior football so we just had to get used to it.
“We were being judged after literally our first game together so it didn’t make sense for people to be so mean.
“We just trained hard and we were able to shut out that noise.
“We liked each other and we wanted to show that we could play quick football and we did.”
Quick yes. And skilful and effective. So much so that Strikers topped the table for much of the season only faltering in the back half of a stunning campaign.
“I don’t even know why that happened and we didn’t really figure it out to be honest.
“I don’t think we can blame it on injuries and I didn’t notice any difference in the way we were playing.
“It was just five or 10 minutes where we would lose it and that really was the difference.”
It definitely wasn’t a fitness issue.
Strength and conditioning coach Kosta Drakoulakos had seen to that and right now the senior squad is working with him in preparation for next season.
“We do a two-hour team session in his gym every Saturday morning then it’s up to the individual about (gym) sessions through the week – I try and do Mondays and Wednesdays.”
New players have been brought in – Campbell Steedman, Steve Elliott and Jamie Davidson from Mornington – and have seamlessly assimilated into the playing group.
“The new players are already involved and you can tell we like them – it’s really good team bonding.”
Delaney is confident that the speed hump Strikers struck on the promotion trail this season won’t be repeated next season.
“I’m honestly really excited about next season,” he said.
“We can only improve as last season was our first together and we’re young so we’ll only get stronger physically and we’ll read the game better.
“We’ve already talked about going to the next league (State 1) and I don’t see why we can’t.
“I would love it if we won the league and that’s what we’re hoping to achieve.
“And there’s going to be more derbies next season (with Skye United and Frankston Pines in State 2).
“I’m really looking forward to those games.
“I love the tough games – it makes it so much better when you win them.”
In other news Lawton Park will again be the venue for the annual Steve Wallace Cup and Saturday 21 January has been pencilled in for the 2023 version of the event.
Steve Wallace was a Langwarrin life-member and former club president, committeeman, coach, player and Bayside League referee.
He died on 19 July 2011 at the age of 54.
This year’s Cup was hit by COVID-19 and forced to change to one-off 90-minute games but will revert to its traditional two-group round-robin format with the top two teams in each group advancing to the semi-finals.
“I’m hoping to kick-off later in the afternoon and run a twilight session from 3pm to around 7pm,” tournament organiser Tanya Wallace said.
“I’m also keen to showcase a women’s NPL game featuring Southern United with a junior boys NPL game between Langwarrin and Mornington as a curtain raiser.”
Long-serving Southern United coach Emma Bracken is assisting Wallace in arranging the women’s game and Bayside United has been mentioned as a possible opponent.
So far Langwarrin, Mornington, Peninsula Strikers, Skye United, Frankston Pines, Baxter, Somerville Eagles, Mount Martha and Rosebud have signed up for January’s tournament.
Seaford United is expected to make a decision about competing at a later date.
Meanwhile former Seaford United, Bentleigh Greens, Langwarrin and Frankston Pines coach Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor is the new senior assistant at recently promoted NPL3 club Beaumaris.
Taylor resigned as Pines head coach in August and joined Baxter’s coaching group over a fortnight ago.
“I’ll still work as a mentor to the coaches at Baxter because ‘Beauy’ is Mondays and Wednesdays,” Taylor said.
For Beaumaris senior coach Dave Gibson it’s a case of fourth time lucky.
“I know ‘Gibbo’ well – that’s why I went there,” Taylor added.
“The assistant he had last year couldn’t recommit and ‘Gibbo’ asked if I was interested so I went and spoke and everything’s sorted.
“He’d approached me three times before but the circumstances were different.”
Taylor knows some of the current Beaumaris senior squad who came through the NPL junior system and he will talk to Gibson about possible recruiting targets.
“They’re very happy with the squad they’ve got so it’ll just be a matter of whether we can improve that squad.”
One player certain to be on the ‘Beauy’ radar is talented Fijian midfielder Thomas Dunn who joined Frankston Pines last January but Taylor was non-committal when questioned about his interest in signing the 19-year-old.
“We’ll just have to wait and see but I know Tommy is keen to play at a higher level,” he said.