Oakleigh Chargers 2016 season preview
Can the Chargers continue their recent golden run and win a fourth TAC Cup premiership in five years in 2016?
Coach: Michael Stinear (third year)
Talent Manager: Craig Notman
2015 finish: Premier
2015 AFL draftees: David Cuningham (pick no.23, Carlton), Alex Morgan (no.29, Essendon), Jack Silvagni (no.53, Carlton), Tom Phillips (no.58, Collingwood), Ben Crocker (no.65, Collingwood)
2016 AFL Academy members: Level One – Jack Higgins
Last premiership: 2015
The Chargers claimed their third premiership in four years by defeating the Eastern Ranges by 12 points in last year’s Grand Final. They may have only finished sixth with a record of 9-8 after the home-and-away season but swept through some fancied teams en route to the decider with victories over the Gippsland Power by 78 points, the Murray Bushrangers by six points and then the North Ballarat Rebels by 32 points.
Several premiership players are back for 2016, meaning Oakleigh’s core group knows exactly what it’ll take to return to the top of the TAC Cup tree. Talent Manager Craig Notman said some of them would be trialled in different positions this year to increase their versatility.
Of the top-age players, key defender Sam McLarty will be used more up forward, wingman Taylin Duman will spend increased time as an inside midfielder, small forward Dion Johnstone will also move through the midfield at times and tall stay-at-home goalkicker Pat Kerr will roam further up the ground. “We’re looking to utilise his kick,” Notman said of Kerr. “He’s probably one of the better kicks in our side.”
Two more premiership winners have been invited back to the Chargers as over-age players. Notman said Lachlan Walker, a strong inside midfielder with an eye for goal, was probably “quite stiff to miss out on being at an AFL club” this year, while talented cricketer Campbell Lane has chosen to focus on football in 2016 after a pre-season spent balancing the two sports “probably caught up with him a little bit” last year. Developing talls Josh Boehm, Xavier Morgan and Sam Parsons will be Oakleigh’s other 19-year-olds.
Michael Stinear goes into his third year as senior coach with an assistant coaching panel including Troy Chaplin. The Richmond key-position player helped develop the club’s youngsters in 2015 and, along with his fellow assistants, will likely be given an opportunity by Stinear to coach the team outright for a game at some point during 2016.
The Chargers open their season on Saturday March 26 against the Western Jets at Ikon Park.
* Photo: Lachlan Walker celebrates a goal in the Oakleigh Chargers' 2015 Grand Final victory
CLICK HERE for the 2016 TAC Cup fixture