Hawks out to shed easy-beat tag
A CHANGE in perception was high on the list of priorities at Heidelberg West as the Hawks began pre-season training under new coach Gary Cutler on Monday night.
The new coach is keen to instil a culture of improvement ahead of his first season at the helm in 2017, as the Hawks look to bury the reputation of competition easy-beats after registering just one win in each of their past two seasons.
“From Byrnsey (president Paul Byrne) down, they genuinely want to improve,” Cutler told NFL.org.au.
“That was the thing that got me really interested.
“We have to change that perception of ourselves. I don’t want people to be picking the fixture up and saying ‘When do we play West?’ I want them to be thinking ‘Gee I’m not looking forward to playing West.’
“I’ve got an old saying ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll give what you’ve always got’, so we’re going to change things up a fair bit.”
In a coaching career that began as a 22-year-old in 1992 at Thornbury Cougars, a start-up club in the old Northern Melbourne league, senior stints at Coburg Districts and Yea have followed for Cutler.
He has also served as reserves coach at Northcote Park, and more recently as reserves coach at North Heidelberg for the past three seasons.
The 2014 reserves premiership coach will bring all lessons learnt in each club environment to Heidelberg Park, as the Hawks look to climb the Division 3 ladder.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been in some really good set-ups, some professional clubs and that’s something I want to take with me to West,” he said.
Cutler has wasted no time recruiting, with North Heidelberg duo Justin Bentley and Daniel Ballantyne already signing on.
“’JB’ is going to be a super player for us. He’s a good size, he’s lightning quick, and has good skills,” Cutler said.
“He probably fits our criteria perfectly at 26. We needed someone with some experience – he won the best on ground medal in the 2014 reserves grand final. He destroyed them.
“He hasn’t really been that interested in footy (recently) – he lost a bit of love for the game. I think he played nearly every game in the ones and got left out in the granny (in 2014).
“But he’s already back running before we even start pre-season. He’s super keen and he wants to be in the leadership group and help these kids become better players.
“We’ve also signed Daniel Ballantyne from North Heidelberg who played in the reserves in the last three years. He’s a big six-foot-three and about 100kg, power forward-ruck.
“We need to put some big bodies around the kids and that’s what we’ve been working around doing.”
The Hawks’ forward line looks to have added extra mobility with Zach Tranter joining from Old Eltham Collegians.
Tranter has booted 86 goals in the VAFA's Division 2 competition over the past three years, including 49 majors during the 2015 season.
“I’ve had a meeting with him and he’s a really good young fella, he seems like he’s a really good team player. He’s not your natural key forward, he looks more like a roaming half forward,” Cutler said.
Heidelberg West has also retained the services of best and fairest winner Kane Moore, as well as Nathan Pender. Meanwhile, Cutler is confident captain Brad Moore will remain at Heidelberg Park.
“Kane has already 100% committed, Nathan has already committed, Brad (Moore) is 99.9 percent,” he said.
“I think that those boys needed to know that the club was going forward.
“They were all there at the meet the coach day two weeks ago. We handed out information packs about how we were going to go about things and what we are about.
“Brad just needed to know that the club is actually recruiting and looking to make an improvement. It’s all systems ahead for those guys.”
Cutler is hopeful that with Nathan Pender remaining at Heidelberg Park, brother Liam will follow suit.
“Liam might be the one that was still considering going back and having a crack at Division 1 in Bundoora and I don’t begrudge anyone doing that, but I’d love to have him on board – he’s an important member of the team,” he said.
“With Nathan staying with us, we’re hoping it sways Liam to do the same thing. (But) I wouldn’t begrudge anyone going and having a crack at Division 1, that’s for sure.”
In his pursuit of a culture shift at Heidelberg Park, Cutler knows the club has solid foundations to work with as it embarks on 2017.
“The club is a really good strong, stable club that have really good people working behind the scenes,” he said.