REIGNING premiers, Dandenong Stingrays are one of a number of sides with a fresh face in the Talent Manager role, as Darren Flanigan returned to the club for the 2019 season. The Stingrays claimed the ultimate TAC Cup glory last year in the club’s sixth attempt, and now under the new NAB League banner, will be keen to build on that momentum.
Flanigan said while he did not arrive until after the pre-season had started – in late November – he had liked what he had seen from the group.
“I missed the start of it (preseason), but I’ve been really impressed with the level of intensity of the group,” he said. “We’ve got some really nice athletes and we’ve got some good size, skills are always a work in progress of course, but the attitude and application of the players has been fantastic.”
The premiership had been a boost to the entire club and described it as “good promotion for the area”. While many of those premiership players have left now, a number of bottom-agers from that memorable day remain. One of them is Hayden Young, the Stingrays’ top prospect and club captain.
“Hayden’s our captain, he sets a really good example, he’s dong a really good job of driving the group and he sets really high standards on himself and his game,” Flanigan said. “I think he’s probably a little bit disappointed in his first practice match, but that was the first bit of competitiveness all preseason so we just know with the kid with his level of professionalism that’ll be just the springboard to a better season.”
One player who played in the premiership last year but spent considerable time on the sidelines due to injury, was co-captain Mitch Riordan. He has returned as a 19-year-old this season and will provide invaluable experience to the midfield group.
“Mitch had a great game last week, coming back as a 19-year-old he’ll do a little bit of work with mentoring the leadership group because he was in the leadership group last year,” Flanigan said. “So that’ll add another string to his bow. “Ned Cahill is our vice captain, he’s also learning from the front, so he and Hayden are setting really high standards.”
Speaking of Cahill, he is currently overcoming some tendonitis in his ankle, held back from testing at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day by Rookie Me.
“We could’ve tested him today but, what does that achieve?” Flanigan said. “He’s got a really long year in front of him with Nationals and we assume he’ll be playing a lot of footy with us, so it’s just a little bit of precaution with him.”
Along with Riordan, the Stingrays have brought back small forward Jai Nanscawen, forward-ruck Bailey Schmidt and medium forward Corey Ellison as the overagers this season. The other 19-year-old prospect this season is described by Flanigan as a “bit of a smoky” in John Roysmith.
“He’s been a boarder at Melbourne Grammar for the last couple years so hasn’t been in the system, but we were alerted to him, and he’s tested really well,” Flanigan said. “He’s top 10 athletically in the club, still got a little bit to learn about the speed of the game, he’s come from playing school footy which is a lot slower than what we play here, so the speed of the game is something he’s got to learn, absorbing all the knowledge he can. “We think he’s a really good prospect, especially for the second half of the year.”
As for expectations, Flanigan said there was good depth across the field in multiple positions and the side would look to make finals in 2019.
“You don’t know with such a raw list, with so few games coming back, we really don’t know how we’ll go, but some of our talls are really talented,” he said. “In this comp you need a good, deep midfield, and I think we’ve got some nice strong bodies around the footy, got a bit of speed around the outside so we think as far as team balance goes, we’ll be okay.”
Dandenong Stingrays’ season begins on Saturday, March 23 at MARS Stadium when they face the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels.