Steady improvement the focus for Eagles


Published on Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Author : Jarryd Barca

Away wins against Bundoora and West Preston-Lakeside have given Whittlesea the confidence it needs to remain a top-flight side.

The solid start for the Eagles also includes a three-point loss to Montmorency in the first round of the season – a match that is widely seen as an opportunity lost.

Whittlesea coach Jim Atkins can see the improvements made since his club’s five-win performance in its return to the top division in 2016.

“The most pleasing thing for our footy club is we’re in a very similar situation to what we were last year,” Atkins told NFL.org.au.

“We’ve lost a few games but we’ve actually been able to win a couple of them. Last year we lost the first eight games, but five or six of them were by under a goal, so we’re learning how to win in the last couple of minutes which is very pleasing.”

With a sense of optimism surrounding the club in the early stages of the year, the Eagles are looking to consolidate their spot in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 having bounced between Division 1 and Division 2 over the past two seasons.

“I think they (the players) feel a little bit more relaxed,” Atkins said.

“They feel more like they believe they should be there.

“The belief has always been there since we first came up but just knowing that and being able to win a couple of games last season and actually staying up… it means we’re progressing.”

Atkins is satisfied with the club’s growing depth, with a number of injuries early in the season allowing him to expose more players to senior footy.

“There’ve been good players who have stepped up,” he said.

“We’re getting tested with our depth but whoever we’re bringing in has been playing well. It’s very pleasing to see.

“I’m confident with our mix of players as a club that’s been around for a while. The boys have played footy together before through juniors so the mix is good and that builds confidence for when someone comes into the side, they fit in and just play their role.

“We’re with a young group so you’ve just got to ride the wave of emotions. We’re learning and getting better at it.

As his playing group continues to gel together, Atkins believes his side is capable of continuing to match it with the top sides throughout the year.

While it has been an even contribution from his side, Atkins gave praise to a few of his early season standouts.

“The easiest one to say would be Thomas Falls. He’s in his second year of senior footy and has been playing fantastic every week. He’s had a massive pre-season and does the job as a small defender for us,” he said.

“Obviously someone like Justin Sherman has had a great start to the year. Riley Dyson’s getting better. Paul Higgins has gotten a lot better this year and just the blokes who have had really big pre seasons, it’s showing now.”

Currently sitting in sixth position with finals a realistic possibility given his side’s form over the opening month, Atkins is keeping a level-headed approach.

“We’re looking to just win more games than we did last year and once we’ve done that we’ll see where we’re at.”

Whittlesea will look to take another giant scalp this Saturday when it hosts undefeated Macleod at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.

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