By Nick Creely
Hampton Park coach Nathan ‘Nanga’ Wilson has a vision for the Redbacks as he prepares to enter his first season as senior coach – to make the club a force of the Southern league, and to have the club up into Division 1 within two years.
And with the bulk of its Division 3 premiership list of 2019 locked away, and a bundle of new recruits, the Redbacks are expected to be a genuine threat when the Division 2 season kicks off on Saturday 10 April against Keysborough.
He said that training standards have increased as the confidence of footy’s return has been greater, and can really see the drive in the group now as the club prepares to once again take to the field.
“With last year, a lot of coaches I’ve spoken to thought that when we started in late-November, the numbers would be through the roof, but it hasn’t quite panned out like that until the last few weeks when people are now starting to think, ‘alright, we might be playing some footy here’,” he said.
“We play Langwarrin in a week and a half in a practice match, so we’ve really ramped up training, and it’s picked up.
“You can see the finish line – no one likes to run around the oval and not be playing.
“So it’ll be a good hit out against Langwarrin, they’re a really good MPNFL side.”
Wilson said the list is primed, hungry, ready to challenge and has built considerable depth and star power.
“I was happy with the list that was coming through from 2019 – spending a couple of years as assistant coach in Division 2 at the Doveton Eagles, I sort of had a fair understanding of the division and what was required,” he said.
“Having seen Hampton Park and guys I’ve played with, I thought that we had a list that could really challenge, but we went out and targeted a ruckman and a few others, and happened to land the biggest fish of all.
“But we’ve retained the majority of our 2019 list which is great.”
Among the bundle of recruits is decorated ruck star Russ Gabriel, who most recently played for Pines but has swag of league medals and team of the year gongs across the VFL, for Doveton and in the WAFL.
Wilson couldn’t be more excited about what the star big man will bring to the club.
“It’s really exciting for the football club to get someone of that calibre in – the rucks in that division have been a bit light on,” he said.
“It’s massive – it sort of came about just as a pure, ‘we’ll just see what he’s up to’, and we weren’t expecting anything, and the message we got back was great, and a couple of weeks later it was done.”
The Redbacks have also secured gun Narre Warren premiership player Liam Myatt, who has also played VFL with Frankston and the Dandenong Stingrays, key defender Dale Jose from the Doveton Eagles, the return of Jordan Derbyshire after a stint with Mordialloc, ex-Collingwood player and VFL star Dan Nicholls, and talented tall prospect Darcy Hope from Pakenham who won’t be available for the first portion of the season but is expected to add great flexibility to the team.
From a re-signing point of view, the Redbacks have recently announced some of its crucial cogs will stay at the club in 2021, such as Cory Phillips, Travis Davis, Jackson Fry, Luke O’Brien, Phil Nanfra, Shaun Welsh, Enayate Samadi, Aaron Holden, Sean Winsall, Ash Scott, Cam Williamson, Jackson Philpin, Zac Hogton, Peter Dye, Josh Craig and Kyle Hendy.
On Myatt, Wilson said the club was delighted to have secured him to add to the inside midfield stocks and is expecting him to have a massive 2021 season.
“Matthew Cox (senior assistant coach), he’s cousin’s with him, and they were having a chat at a family function,” he said.
“They got to chatting, and Coxy got him to come down and have a meal and chat with us, and then it got done which is exciting.
“We were thinking Liam would just have a licence to run around and do his own thing, but the scratch matches he’s been in he’s been an absolute bull – we expect him to have his nose under the footy all year.”
Wilson believes that the new players will add tremendous quality to the already seasoned premiership squad, and is excited about what each individual can add both on and off field as the club looks to really stamp its authority over the competition.
“We think we’ve targeted areas that we can really exploit Division 2,” he said.
“And the club’s got a really good vision.
“When I sat down with the president Craig Seers and vice-president Mick O’Brien, and footy manager Paul McGowan in my first interview, they sort of asked me what my expectations are.
“It’s to get this footy club into Division 1, and to be a real force in the next 24 months – to get these guys in the door is exciting, and it lifts the whole vibe of the joint.”
With a round one clash not far away, and the anticipation building, the Redbacks are certainly a side to keep an eye on.