Tooradin-Dalmore will embark on a new chapter in the club’s history when the Seagulls make their debut in the Alex Scott and Staff West Gippsland Football Netball Competition tomorrow night.
One of two new teams in the competition this season, along with former Ellinbank and District Football League club Warragul Industrials, Tooradin Dalmore will take on Cora Lynn in a standalone season opener at Cora Lynn Recreation Reserve.
It’s the first game on the 2019 Gippsland football calendar and is expected to draw a healthy crowd.
Seagulls coach Lachie Gillespie said the club, players and wider community were excited about the new challenge, even if it meant diving headfirst into the unknown.
“Obviously you try to do your homework on clubs and we did watch finals in West Gippsland last year but it’s about understanding how your brand of footy will work in a different competition,” Gillespie said.
“Our playing style will evolve… we like to play a pressure style of footy (putting) defence first but we like to think we can score heavily too.
“We want to feel our best footy can beat anyone but we know there’s going to be some really good sides in the league and it’s going to be very difficult so we’ll be very respectful of what we’re up against.”
It’s not been the easiest off-season at Tooradin-Dalmore.
Not only did the club have to prepare to enter a new competition – including a tighter salary cap – but it had to work through the tragic loss of football president Greg Kelly at the same time.
Gillespie said the club was still in mourning and that while Kelly’s death had had a “huge effect on everyone”, it had also brought them closer together.
“He was such a massive presence around our club and his hard work over a long time has really set us up,” Gillespie said.
“His son Jordan is one of our assistants so we’re getting around him and the family and we’re committed to getting on with it and making this club as good as it can be because that’s what Greg would have wanted.
“It’s been a hard period but we’re a good family club and we’ll be stronger for it in the long run.”
Lee Jones has stepped up as president and the club is moving forward with a return to its historical roots.
Gippsland represents familiar territory for Tooradin Dalmore, which previously formed part of the now-defunct South West Gippsland and West Gippsland football leagues as recently as 2004.
The Seagulls face a tough initiation, with a trip to Cora Lynn to take on a Cobras side that has beefed up considerably in the off-season.
Premiership players Nathan Langley and Mitchell Wallace have returned, while Troy Tharle, Nathan Gardiner and Brent Urwin have arrived to provide additional height in attack and bulk in midfield.
Gillespie was prepared for tough first outing, having faced plenty of the Cobras’ weapons in the former South East Football Netball League in recent seasons.
“They’ve got good key forwards and they like to take the game on and score heavily, so we will need to be flexible,” Gillespie said.
The Seagulls have kept the majority of their list together, with marauding defender and reigning club best-and-fairest Luke McKenna, athletic forward Andrew Dean and big-hearted skipper Matt Livermore set to be among the key players again.
There’s also some excitement about the development of 18-year-old tall Connor Shipp – son of ex-Fremantle forward Andrew Shipp – who is expected to play plenty of senior footy this season.
Cora Lynn reached the first semi-final last season, despite its young list, and looms as a contender to push on further this season.
Meanwhile, Tooradin Dalmore is expected to shake up the A Grade netball competition, with the Seagulls joining the competition on the back of back-to-back SEFNL flags.
Coach Kelly Andrews was proud of the way the side had developed over the past four years but was ready for the unexpected in season 2019.
“We’ll have to bring our best every game because we don’t know what we’re up against,” Andrews said.
“We have a plan and will have everyone working towards it. It’s super exciting.”
The senior game kicks off at 7:00pm, with the A Grade netball set to start at 6:15pm.