By Mick Mattinly nfl.org.au
Incoming Eltham coach Paul King is confident the club can push into the finals of the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 competition this year.
After playing in a preliminary final in 2015, the Panthers dropped out of the finals last year to finish eighth with a 7-11 record, only above Whittlesea and Lower Plenty.
However, good training numbers and intense competition for senior spots is enough to have King thinking positively.
“The atmosphere around the club has been really good, the boys have enjoyed pre-season and we are fairly optimistic of being quite competitive,” King told NFL.org.au.
“Both mine and the club’s ambition is to push for finals. I’m not setting any massive expectations, but I think a pass mark would be to sneak into the finals in what is going to be a very competitive competition.”
King, who last year won the NFL Division 2 reserves best and fairest, was approached for the senior coaching role by the Panthers while playing at North Heidelberg.
While the opportunity came as a surprise, it was too good to pass up.
“I hadn’t really planned on coaching – it was a bit of a whirlwind,” King said.
“The club as a whole has made it a lot easier for me with a lot of people around to help. I’m learning every day, so I’m both excited and nervous about the job ahead.”
The Panthers went on a recruiting drive over the off-season, bringing in Shepparton pair Stephen McIntyre and Michael Tinkler. They will be joined by former Whitefriars gun Sean Currie, fresh off being named in the 2016 VAFA Division 1 Team of the Year.
Former Essendon AFL listed forward Michael Still will return to the Panthers full-time in a huge boost for the club. While a past club captain in Paul Currie will also make his way back to Eltham, along with fellow tall Matthew Keys.
Even with all these additions, it has been two existing Eltham players in 25-year-old small forward Mikael Avramov and 23-year-old Hayden Hunt who have moved their way through the ranks and impressed King throughout pre-season.
“They’ve both worked really hard, and have been rewarded with games in our senior practice matches,” he said.
Eltham will have to wait until April 14 to kick off its season, where it will take on Greensborough in the annual Good Friday clash at Greensborough War Memorial Park.
The Panthers will be looking to turn the tide on the Boro, having lost each of the past three Good Friday matches.
However, they were victorious in their last trip to Greensborough after claiming a nine-point upset in Round 9 last year.