LESS than a week after recruiting Anton Woods and Bradyn Taglieri, Eltham has landed another big coup by signing former Essendon tall Michael Still.
Returning from a three-year stint with West Adelaide in the SANFL, Still a former Eltham Junior (pictured, above) has nominated Eltham as his local club after also signing with Collingwood’s VFL team.
The 194cm forward was recruited by Essendon with selection No. 55 in the 2008 National Draft, but failed to make an appearance at AFL level.
He booted 39 goals in his final 15 SANFL senior matches before making a return to Victoria.
Eltham coach Mario Bandera said he was thrilled to secure Still’s signature, despite his limited availability because of VFL commitments with the Magpies.
“It’s always great to have players come home. He is obviously a great addition for us in the short term as well as the long,” Bandera told NFL.org.au.
“His experience from being drafted into Essendon and then playing at West Adelaide is what we are really looking to tap into in the short term, as it will assist in raising the professionalism and standards within our young list.
“For now, we hope to get anywhere from 1-6 games from him. The biggest thing for us in the now will be his ability to teach our young forwards how to play within structures and to do it together.”
Preparing for his second year in charge at Eltham, Bandera said this year’s pre-season had been “100 times better” than last.
Following the departure of a number of key players at the conclusion of the 2013 season, the Panthers won just three matches in a season of regeneration last year.
While the win-loss tally didn’t make for pretty viewing, Bandera said last year was a positive one as it gave his young charges an opportunity to develop at senior level.
He believes his side is now well placed to respond to last year’s ninth-place finish.
“Going in this year we had a bit more of an idea where our list was at and what we sort of needed,” he said.
“We earmarked that a strong midfield was something that was needed and I think we’ve gone a long way to cementing ourselves as probably going into the year with one of the strongest two or three midfields in the comp.”
With Gavan Connelly living abroad and a possibility to miss the entire 2015 campaign, Bandera said he would be looking to his new recruits to also provide strong leadership.
Taglieri has already been installed as co-captain with Josh Merkel.
“Something that we lacked last year was on-field leadership just because we were so young but now we’ve picked up two very strong leaders,” Bandera said.
“(Taglieri) has never captained a side before, but he’s been at VFL for two years and he’s a natural leader. Anton’s pretty quiet but when he gets on the field that’s where he makes up for it.
“I was talking to Chipper (Taglieri) when we were trying to get Anton across and the way he described him was he’s just a ready-made NFL Division 1 footballer.
“The way he plays is ideally suited to our league and the way the footy is played. He’s a tackling machine and hits the footy hard and, again, with our young list that’s what you need.
“His value to us is more than just his playing ability. He brings that leadership and the way that he plays footy helps teach and educate all our younger players, which he’s already started to do on the track anyway.”
Two promising youngsters who may be missing in action in 2015 are James Kroussoratis and Daniel Coffield , who are training with VFL outfits Coburg and Richmond respectively.
Kroussoratis has booted 82 goals over the past two seasons, while 18-year-old Coffield finished runner-up in Eltham’s best and fairest last year.
Should neither be available throughout the season, Bandera believes young recruits Bailey Taglieri and Jye Lorey will be able to step into the spots made vacant. He also expects to see further improvement from Kieran Keane, Adam Brovedani and Chase Caulfield.
Bandera said he was undecided where 2014 best and fairest winner Billy Glasgow would line-up, with the coach tossing up whether to play him at centre half back or in the midfield.
“As much as Billy Glasgow is a comfort to have and he’s only turning 20 this year, my biggest headache right now is where I am going to play him,” Bandera said.
“In all my years of footy and the different levels that I’ve played at and been involved at, and he doesn’t like being spoken about and I don’t usually pump him up too much, but he’s the best specimen and athlete that I’ve ever seen.
“When I got to the club I saw so much of Daniel Moore in him. Billy is still learning the game I suppose, whereas Moorey was probably a bit smarter when I coached him. In two or three years’ time, Billy is going to be a freak.”
Eltham faces a tough start to the 2015 season, taking on reigning premier Greensborough away in the season opener on Good Friday.
Despite the daunting challenge, Bandera said his side would take confidence into the clash.
“We’re training well at the moment and we’re slowly putting together a good list,” he said.
“We deserve to have a bit of swagger going into that game as well but the only way to have that swagger is to back it up.
“For us, we’ve got them, then we’ve got Northcote Park and then we’ve got Lower Plenty so we have a tough opening three weeks and we’ll quickly know where we’re at.”
Article courtesy of Samual Zito – Northern Football League Media Manager