Tide turns for the Tigers

Gormandale ruckman Doug Grining, coach Steve Hazelman, president Wayne Henry and best and fairest Al Jenkin are at the forefront of making Gormandale great again. photograph hayley mills

Gormandale ruckman Doug Grining, coach Steve Hazelman, president Wayne Henry and best and fairest Al Jenkin are at the forefront of making Gormandale great again. photograph hayley mills

FOOTBALL

NORTH GIPPSLAND

An average losing margin of 127 points last year would be enough to turn away even the most loyal of footballers.

Perhaps it is the belief of Gormandale coach Steve Hazelman which has attracted the attention of some of Gippsland's best footballers as the Tigers - and their coach - are faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding the once mighty club.

From the outside it may appear to be all "doom and gloom", but rest assured, this is not the case.

The Tigers have one of their strongest and most promising lists in more than a decade - and for the first time in three years have been able to re-establish their under 18s side.

Preseason training attracted one of the biggest turnouts in club history and with the Tigers training one day a week at Traralgon, those numbers have remained steady.

Gormandale's major fundraiser – the renowned chook raffle which is run twice a month – continues to be lucrative for the club, earning Gormandale several thousand dollars a year.

Then on Thursday the club was allocated $352,000 under the state government's Community Managed Places program to have Gormandale Recreation Reserve's oval and court lighting overhauled.

On the track, the recruitment of Chase Saunders, last year's Mid Gippsland Football League best and fairest, and the likes of Brayden Duve and Troy Forrest from Traralgon - three of 12 senior players recruited - have been essential assets to the club.

Injury, like it has for a few other North Gippsland clubs, has been the biggest qualm for Gormandale who have been lacking in depth with some of their best players out for most of the season.

However, Hazelman said the tide could turn in round 10, citing a number of key players set to return to the line up.

Midfielder Joey Colaciello has been the biggest loss for the Tigers, after straining his hamstring twice in round one - missing four weeks - and again in round seven and has since remained unavailable since.

He has been seeking rehabilitation through the Essendon Football Club.

Another midfielder, Jake Bishop, has also been a loss for Gormandale after straining a knee ligament earlier this season.

Both are expected to return to the side this weekend.

"We've had players miss two or three weeks here and there but every week without doubt we've probably had six or seven of our best players out," Hazelman said.

"It'll be the first time this weekend we've had our best side on the park available and if that happens hopefully we'll be able to play some better team football."

Prior to this season, the Tigers went two seasons with only one win, however, have shown improvement on field this year winning two of their nine games to sit eighth on the North Gippsland ladder.

"We're new as a group. We need that cohesion to improve the on-field performance – we've got 12 new senior players; some from Traralgon, and a handful of North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland clubs too," Hazelman said.

"Last year we didn't have much depth so bringing 12 senior players has helped us play some better football but not quite at the standard we'd like.

"In terms of the morale around the club, it's improved but we'd like to turn those close losses to wins."

The club has lost a couple of close matches, most recently in round nine when the Tigers lost by eight points to sixth-placed Woodside.

"We would've liked to have won a few more games this season but the reality is we're coming from a fair way back and we're trying to improve our win-loss ratio in all grades, not just the seniors," Hazelman said.

"I'm very confident we can get a few more wins on the board, continue to work hard to build the under 18 team and develop a really strong culture on and off the field."

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