HDFNL season preview: Mount Pleasant

BACK IN BLUE: James Walsh has returned to Mount Pleasant from Golden Square.

BACK IN BLUE: James Walsh has returned to Mount Pleasant from Golden Square.

MOUNT PLEASANT FOOTBALL

COACH: Matt Johnson (first year)

LAST YEAR: Sixth

ARRIVALS

Jack Bickley, Samuel Carracher, Kris Clifford, Ryan Herring, Thomas Wakefield, James Walsh.

DEPARTURES

Jack Gaze, Nicholas Grigg, Ethan Langwell, Jason Shaw, Riely Thiesz, Nathan Whipp, Joseph Whiting.

THE BASICS

Sportsbet flag odds: $23

Player points: 46

FIRST MONTH

R1: v LBU (h)

R2: v Colbinabbin (a)

R3: v L'ville-Gunbower (h)

R4: Bye

LAST FIVE YEARS

2016: Sixth (5-11)

2015: Seventh (4-12)

2014: Fourth (11-7)

2013: Eighth (4-12)

2012: Sixth (6-10)

NEW Mount Pleasant coach Matt Johnson hopes reducing the “ebbs and flows” that were within games last year will be one of the catalysts to the Blues challenging for a return to the finals in 2017.

Johnson has taken over as coach of the Blues from Derrick Filo, with Mount Pleasant coming off five wins and a sixth-placed finish last year.

“From finishing sixth last year, there were a few close games that we could have won and there were some positive signs there for us,” Johnson said.

“But we had some inconsistencies and that’s something we’ve focused on through the pre-season… trying to get rid of those ebbs and flows throughout games and playing some really consistent football.” 

The Blues have lost their leading goalkicker of the past two years in Nicholas Grigg, but have added centre half-forward Ryan Herring, who has played the past two years at Golden Square, kicking 85 goals. 

James Walsh returns to Toolleen from Golden Square and will add to the midfield rotation as well as provide drive off the half-back line, while Kris Clifford from Charlton has impressed up forward during the pre-season.

Q & A with Matt Johnson

Q: Mounts finished three games out of the top five last year. How do you expect to bridge the gap this season and challenge for a finals berth?

It's going to be a very young group this year. The side that played in the practice match last weekend had 14 players under the age of 24.

The majority of the group is 20 to 24, so it's going to be about developing those younger players and the quicker they come on, the more successful we are going to be.

We'd like to think we'll have some more depth this year and pressure on the senior group for positions and, hopefully, the results will follow.

Belinda Pinner has joined Mount Pleasant from Golden Square and will coach the A-grade and A-reserve teams.

Belinda Pinner has joined Mount Pleasant from Golden Square and will coach the A-grade and A-reserve teams.

MOUNT PLEASANT NETBALL

ARRIVALS

Belinda Pinner (Golden Square); Clare Hope (Golden Square); Chantal O'Brien (Golden Square); Carly O'Toole (returning); Megan Baird (returning); Sophie O'Shannessy (returning).

DEPARTURES

Tracey Meekings (Northern Territory); Kirsty Hamilton; Sarah Quinn (injured); Jane Briody (pregnant).

COACHING PANEL

A-grade and A-reserve assistant: Carly Dorrington

LAST THREE YEARS

2016: Sixth

2015: Eighth

2014: Fourth

HOPES are high at Mount Pleasant that the Blues can force their way back into the competitions upper echelon.

The early signs are good, starting with the appointment late last year of former Golden Square stalwart Belinda Pinner as A-grade and A-reserve coach.

The class midcourter was a two-time A-grade premiership player with the Bulldogs and also part of their 2016 grand final side.

Her more than 250-games of experience and obvious skill can not help but rub off on a largely young Mount Pleasant playing list.

Joining Pinner at the Blues is other former Golden Square players Clare Hope and Chantal O'Brien.

Hope was best-on-court in the Bulldogs' A-reserve premiership triumph last season and will add plenty more experience to a team looking to return to the finals for the first time since 2014.

The Blues will be without last year's best and fairest Tracey Meekings, who finished fourth in the league medal count but left towards the end of the 2016 season, and midcourter Kristy Hamilton.

It is hoped their loss will be offset by the return of former Blues players and the development of some promising juniors.

Q&A with netball operations manager Anita Wild

Q:  From the outside, it looks like the club's expectations and atmosphere are very positive?

Defintely. The appointment of Belinda Pinner has been a great step for our club. She's been able to secure a few good defenders and midcourters. So far in our pre-season games there has been some very promising signs. We should be a team to not be taken lightly this year. Making sure we are back in the finals is definitely an aim. That's something we are looking for from all grades, not just our top grades.