Craigieburn looks to youth

Joshua Vilinskis. Pic Marco De Luca

By Tara Murray

While Craigieburn has landed some key recruits in the off-season, new coach Lance Whitnall is banking on youth to help take the side to the next level in Essendon District Football League division 1.

Coming off a preliminary final, the Eagles have strengthened the squad as it hopes to develop even further – and give promotion another shot.

New coach Lance Whitnall said that with another year under their belts, the players were bound to improve.

“We’ve got a very young list, but that is the plan – to push and build together,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for development. It’s pretty exciting for a coach.”

Whitnall nominated Brock Chircop, Jacob McNicol, Josh Vilinskis and Liam Middleton as four of the younger players who stood out in the pre-season.

“We’ll see the best of them in the next couple of years,” he said.

“The experienced guys are excited to see what they can do.”

Whitnall said one area they struggled with last season was depth.

The key to their recruiting was trying to get former players back to the club. With the points system in play, one-point players are valuable in setting up any team.

The Eagles were successful, with Steven Boyall, Jesse Davies, Corey Viani and Josh Young all returning.

“Pretty much all of these guys have played some good football at other clubs, winning club or competition best and fairest awards,” Whitnall said. “They’re all at the peak of their games now.”

Jacana duo Billy Morrison and Jacob Austin have also come across.

Whitnall, who was an assistant coach and senior football manager last season, said was enjoying being back in the head coaching role.

He said the Eagles were primed to improve this year, after heading into last season as a bit of an unknown after dropping down from premier division.

“It was a good learning curve for us,” he said.

“Airport West and Tullamarine made the grand final and we were leading against them for a fair period of time.”

Off-field things are happening for the Eagles, with work being done on new facilities and changerooms.

While they are currently changing in portables, Whitnall said it was exciting seeing the work being done.

The Eagles will have to wait another week to start their season – they have a bye in round one.

They will then face last season’s runners-up, Tullamarine, in round two.

“It will be a good test,” Whitnall said. “We’ll get a bit of an insight into where we are at.”