By LIAM DURKIN
DEVON Soutar was reappointed senior coach of the Morwell East Football-Netball Club recently.
Soutar will enter his fourth season at the helm, and like all coaches, will be hoping to get a clean run at things following two interrupted seasons.
Although Soutar has only coached on field for a season and a half, the Hawks have shown some signs of promise under his guidance.
His first season in 2019 saw Morwell East win as many home-and-away matches as eventual grand finalists Hill End, before an elimination final victory was followed by a second week finals exit.
While the season just gone did not eventuate, the Hawks would have played finals as they sat sixth with a two-game lead over their nearest rival with one round to play when the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League competition was called off.
However, the Hawks were beset with unreliability of performance last season, with a mid-table finish ultimately providing an accurate summary of the year.
The coach himself acknowledged this was the case, and said tightening the screws in some key areas would be the main point to address next season.
“Overall for us it was pretty inconsistent. Our good was good, our bad was pretty bad,” Soutar said.
“The challenge for us next year will be to narrow that gap and hopefully that puts us in a good spot.”
Morwell East presented an interesting case study in 2021.
The Hawks proved their worth with a strong win over finals bound Yinnar and a five-point loss to top side Hill End, only to be juxtaposed next to a loss at home to a Tarwin side that had only won two games prior, as well as unconvincing wins against lowly Thorpdale and Boolarra.
Because of this, many in local football circles were left wondering ‘what is the real Morwell East?’
Soutar referenced ‘self-preservation mode’ as a reason for the underwhelming performances, and said stamping this out would be vital in their quest next season.
“At times we seem to rise to a challenge when it is there but also become a little bit complacent on days where we can be,” he said.
“That bit us in the backside a few times, hence the reason we are finishing mid-table and not top two, top three.
“I think sometimes when sides get challenged what will happen is people will be more concerned about making sure that they don’t make a mistake, look after their own backyard, and the impact if everyone does that, collectively you are not heading in the direction you want to go as a side.”
Rectifying this could be the tonic needed to take Morwell East from also-rans to genuine premiership contenders.
The Hawks have recruited on a needs-basis, and secured the services of ruckman Isaac Abas from Morwell and journeyman key forward Matt Coutts, who most recently played at Gormandale.
While Morwell East forwards Rob Michaelides, Daniel Hutchison and Nick Grainger all kicked over 20 goals last season, Soutar believed the addition of Coutts would provide another dimension.
“We identified there were some pretty big holes we needed to fill, certainly don’t feel like we’ve had a key forward,” he said.
“Nick Grainger, Daniel Hutchison, Rob Michaelides aren’t what you would call key forward, they are medium, mobile size, so we needed to get a key forward in – I think Couttsy will do that for us.
“Ruck-stock wise, Andrew Brown leaving to go to Queensland left a pretty big hole and we had to pinch-hit throughout the year with a few different options, but getting Isaac in who has played with a few of the guys I think will definitely help.
“We have an experienced midfield group so his addition should hopefully work wonders for us.
“Lucas Towns coming back from Churchill, having made Team Of The Year over there in North Gippy and had some success also definitely strengthens us up.
“We feel like so far we’re in a pretty good spot but you don’t win anything at this time of year.”
Another aspects bound to help the Hawks is the fact most of their players are within what is generally considered the peak football age bracket of 26 to 28, as well as the likes of Joel Soutar, Daniel Siddle and Devon Soutar himself who have all played at a high level for Morwell in the Gippsland League, to go with experienced Morwell East campaigners such as Brandon Francis, Frank Marks and Brendan Evans.
With Soutar and others working hard behind the scenes priming a list to give the club the best chance of success, the returning coach said the players would now have to come to the table to make sure the opportunity that could be in front of them is not wasted.
“The age demographic we’ve got, the average age of the list is around 27 at the moment so immediately that puts you in the zone (premiership window),” he said.
“Based off the recruits we’ve been able to get and the holes we’ve been able to fill I would hope that puts us in a pretty good spot, but there is a lot of work to be done before you get to that point (talking premierships).”