Penola’s senior side has received a complete makeover in the 18 months between matches in the Bendigo Bank Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League and embarks on an exciting 2021 campaign this Saturday.
The club’s department of youth has been given the burden of leading the Eagles into a new era. The average age of the A Grade squad is just 22, but Penola coach Tony Porter (pictured) cannot wait to see what his raw and talented Eagles have in store this season.
“We have had a very big change in personnel in the last two years, so it is time for the youth to grow and take some more ownership,” he said. “We have a younger group with depth that has shown signs they can play A Grade football and as coach I am super excited to lead the group. “I have full confidence in every player to go in a forward direction.”
Some young names to look out for include Caleb Lythgo, Jacob Robbie, Darcy Porter, Zac Currie, Sam Hayes, Dylan Morton, Aiden and Corey Brand, Andes McShane, Brock Summer Hayes, Aaron Zerk and more who have proved themselves in Senior Colts.
However, the team is not completely full of youngsters just hatching out of the Eagles nest. Penola enjoys the services of former South Adelaide captain and SANFL life member Bradley Crabb. The 33-year-old played more than 200 games for the Panthers between 2007 and 19 and became known as the “King of KI” having hailed from the small island.
Tony Porter believes Crabb will bring “good direction and knowledge of the game” to the playing group, which also welcomed Port MacDonnell’s Trent Ebejer. Brock Egan and Brad Bryant will also provide some invaluable experience, as will tireless forward Adam (Hoggett) Merrett, who could be in for another big year of kicking goals.
Porter himself has many years under his belt and led the Eagles to glory in 2013. The senior squad first hit the track with a couple of sessions before Christmas and has completed 16 sessions after returning in January.
Players also got the chance to gel in a trial match with Kongorong and Porter believes the team of up to 50 men has built a strong connection with each other. Despite fielding so many young faces, the coach said finals is the ambition, but will take each week as it comes.
“We will aim for a finals spot and if we could get that far with youth, it can clearly open up to better things,” he said. “If I can get the growth within the group the results will take care of themselves.”