ROCHESTER has continued to ramp up its preparation for the new football season with a practice match against Bendigo Football League outfit Strathfieldsaye.
The Tigers impressed in the first half before falling to a 91-82 defeat, but coach James Flaherty said the match was about more than the result.
‘‘Pre-season matches are a reward for players who’ve been turning up to training and to give some of the less experienced blokes an opportunity at senior level,’’ he said.
‘‘We had a good mix of youth and experience and it was all about getting some match condition into the guys.’’
Played in Saturday’s warm conditions, Flaherty said he was pleased with his side’s performance against a quality opposition.
‘‘We were really happy with the first half, we did what we needed to do in the game and it showed us what we need to keep working on,’’ he said.
‘‘Our ball use early was great and our ability to attack the game was too. We dropped off a bit in the second half so we need to work on finishing out games and our work rate.’’
After a close grand final defeat last season it is easy to understand why Rochester are itching for the new season to get underway.
‘‘The boys are definitely excited to get the season started, you could even tell on the weekend that they were playing with a bit of passion and were into the game,’’ Flaherty said.
The Tigers are driven to succeed in 2017 and to avenge their 13 point grand final loss to undefeated Kyabram, with Flaherty speaking of a strong motivation within his group through pre-season training.
“We’ve got a burning desire in that core group to achieve that premiership success,” he said.
“The core group aged around 26 to 28 are really hungry and want to take their opportunity.”
Rochester has been strong over the last two seasons, winning 16 games in 2015 and 15 last year,
“Last year was a good result overall and we’re really driven to succeed this season with hopes of closing that gap on Kyabram,” Flaherty said.
“Two years ago we made a preliminary final, and last year we were in the grand final so we’re improving.”
Midfielder Daniel Anderson will miss the season after he damaged his ACL in last year’s decider, but Flaherty told supporters to expect growth from within the club to cover his loss.
He suggested players such as Perry Oliver and Scott Oakley, who came through the senior side late last year, would benefit the team by playing a whole season of senior football.
Daniel Hamilton returns to the side after recovering from a knee issue.
The Tigers have also recruited Brodie McMahon from Palmerston in the NTFL to add to their midfield stocks.
Flaherty said McMahon, who played in the weekend’s practice match, had moved down on Friday and would live in the area for the season.
The coach said he expected his side to be back at the higher end of the ladder in 2017.
“We’re pretty confident that we’re improving and we know if we keep that up we will be around the mark,” Flaherty said.
“We just need to stay consistent and we will be there.”
■Words – Alex Mitchell. Photos – Bruce Povey.