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28 Jun 2017

By Jarryd Barca

After winning just one game in the opening month of the 2017 Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 season, reigning premier Heidelberg is now just percentage outside the top-five.

Consecutive close wins against Northcote Park and West Preston-Lakeside since the Queen’s Birthday weekend bye have elevated the Tigers to sixth place on the ladder at the halfway point of the year.

Despite his side’s improved form, playing co-coach Charles Gaylard is weary of the evenness of the competition and conceded his side must not look too far ahead.

“For the situation that we’re in, we just have to keep winning games of football,” Gaylard told NFL.org.au.

“We can’t launch ourselves too far ahead, and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s also a reality. All we can do is focus on each training session and how we’re going to get better.”

Heidelberg opened its premiership defence with a 13-point loss to West Preston-Lakeside in the opening game of the season, before falling 10 points short of Bundoora and 51 points short against Macleod in the fortnight that followed.

A 0-3 record had Heidelberg facing the unlikely prospect of a bottom-five finish as it sat on the foot of the ladder with a lowly percentage of 72.39.

But Gaylard insisted the Tigers heads never dropped despite the slow start.

“Yes it was a disappointing start to the year, but our spirits never waivered,” he said.

“While results weren’t going our way, we had some really quality leaders that were able to keep the spirits high around the club.

“They kept focusing on the things we needed to do. They really drove that. Those guys were really good and kept driving the high standards in a number of areas.

“We’d been working a lot during training and we knew that eventually it would come together for us.”

The resurgent Tigers have been boosted by the return of several key senior players in recent weeks, allowing them to better execute their game plan.

After missing the opening two months of the season, premiership ruckman Sam Gilmore is one of many players who have had an immediate impact since coming into the side at Round 8.

“Sam’s an exceptional player and has been really good for us,” Gaylard said.

“He came back for us a few weeks ago and did a mini pre-season then got up for the Northcote game.”

Gaylard ensured there was a silver-lining to the club’s disappointing start to the year.
With a host of senior players unavailable for selection, the Tigers were able to showcase what was to come in the future.

“We were able to blood a few young guys early in the year which was the positive thing for not having all our senior players in the team,” he said.

“We saw some really positive signs from our young kids and we see them at the footy club for the next decade.”

Heidelberg now has a chance to jump into the top-five this week if it defeats fourth-placed Bundoora at Yulong Reserve.

“We absolutely give ourselves a chance and obviously where both teams are positioned on the ladder, it’s going to be really hotly contested,” Gaylard said.

“We’re really looking forward to it as a football club.”

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