Welcome to season 2024!

Friday 22 March 2024

Count the sleeps until Round 1, that's right 21 to go until Saturday Arvo Blacks Footy is back on the Main!!!

Testing, is this thing on? IS THIS THING ON!??

The Uni Blacks are pumped to bring you a wrap-up of all our off-season news since the conclusion of the 2023 season, including new recruits, footy department updates, retirees, practice matches, and most importantly our build-up to Round 1 vs Old Scotch on the Uni Main, April 13th!

Picking up where we left off, the Blacks enjoyed a well-deserved few weeks off to rest and recuperate, knowing that 2024 beckoned another season of Premier footy. It was a tale of two halves in 2023; 2 wins and 7 losses in the first half of the season, before coming home strong with 7 wins and two losses in the second half. This gives the club plenty to build on in the lead up to the 2024 season.

 Off-field, the Blacks Committee were quick to secure all Football Department positions from 2023 into 2024, including Senior Coach Dale Bower, for his 5th season at the helm. President, Patrick Barry, was delighted to confirm Bower's re-appointment, noting that "it was clear to us as a Committee that Dale had the support of the playing group, especially after changing our fortunes around mid season in '23." The Blacks are excited to see what next steps they can take in '24 with continuity and stability in important roles such as Dale's, as well as Head of Football Cameron Wood, and Reserves Coach/Head of Performance/Conditioning, Rob Paterson, both recommitting for this year.

Assistants Shane Joyce and Murray Schneider provide key support once more, whilst our Under 19s side will be led by Chris Thompson, who last year spent the year preparing for the role as Assistant.

Pre-season training commenced in mid-November, and an excellent mix of young and old boys consistently rocked up for training prior to Xmas. Skill development, 400m intervals, 2km time trial training and genuine tin-shifting at the gym was the order of the day. Shout-out must go to up-and-comers Sam Robertson and Oliver Bouchez for going head to head each training and tin session, providing great motivation for other players to 'buy in' to the workload and lay the foundation for a strong campaign.

Senior Captain Campbell Moorfield (first year as solo captain, we will get to that) remarked that the motivation and appetite for hard-work in the off season has been great to see, as the refreshing mix of youth and experience has been a real selling point to keep players interested during the long summer days. Motivation to train hard away from the group is always a challenge around Xmas but with the creation of a Strava group to keep track of running sessions, as well as constant engagement across the playing group, has provided a real spark.

After a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, players were welcomed back to the Main and Crawford, ready to roll in runners once more for more interval runs and plenty of kicking. Saturday morning began to turn into a quasi-formal training session for those looking to challenge themselves; the routine of 'Aths track at 8am' fast became common. A crisp 5-6km dose of high intensity running followed by some almighty tin throwing in the gym capped off with a latte and Good Weekend Quiz only made the buzz grow stronger around the playing group. Good stuff.

 Before we knew it, the Blacks ventured south-east, destined for a physical flogging along the shores of Hastings. A 20km scavenger hunt race gave the boys plenty of room for creativity and bonding, before a well-earned rest-into-a re-hydrating bus of destiny back to the Clyde. A few 'Action Man' later, it was already March and practice games were within reach.

 Reflecting on pre-season and the 2024 campaign ahead, Dale Bower said “Pre season has been positive and productive for everyone involved as the Blacks playing list continues to evolve. Some Blacks greats have retired or are out of action for 2024 and we have added more exciting young talent to compliment our current list. We are in a development phase but it’s going to be an exciting ride!”

 New recruits have been in force for the Blacks leading into 2024, with some industrious work done as always by the Recruitment Committee. WA, NSW, SA, rural & metro Vic have all been represented well by new players, especially in former fruitful Blacks recruiting fields such as Cobram (home of the King brothers), Ballarat, and Adelaide.

 Alas, it would be remiss to omit a few shoutouts for players not pulling on the Black and Blue in 2024, owing to retirement, work commitments and lifestyle. Former Senior Co-Captain and 180 gamer Josh Steadman has officially retired from the Club; bustling forward Nick Hey has transitioned back to Sydney along with Tom Larby, whilst multiple Cordner Medalist, Hugh Curnow has taken a sabbatical for the year, to finish his medical placements with a bang before enjoying Europe for the rest of the year (and has recently become engaged to his beautiful partner, Phoebe, congratulations Curns!)

 To all players not returning in 2024 to the Blacks (impossible to name them all) thank you for your contributions to the Club and we very much can't wait to see you at a Blacks game cheering us on soon!

 Writing this on Friday the 22nd, we have the opportunity to report on our first Practice Match hit-out, which took place at RSEA Park last Saturday vs Old Haileybury. Whilst no one seemed to be able to confirm scores at the end of each match, let’s just say the 1s and 2s both saluted in close fought affairs that had all the hallmarks of pre-season: zinc cream, skill errors galore, blisters from new boots, players being sampled in new positions, and most importantly NO injuries.

This weekend, the Blacks are hosted by the Yarraville-Seddon Eagles in what promises to be an intriguing face-off, this writer is not quite sure if the Blacks have ever played Yarraville before - can we get a fact check on that please? Under 19s, Ressies and Seniors all get a go at Williamstown Road in what will hopefully be another honest tune up as we head into an early Easter break.

 The real stand-out of preseason however is April 6th. The AFL ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of ‘Round Zero’, because we have in store a Round Zero clash with the Uni Blues on the Main. Talk about having your dessert before dinner! The playing group will be amped up to go and we hope you will be too!

Season 2024 has much to offer for supporters at the Blacks; multiple Premiership Reunions and a bevy of off field events are on the horizon, so jump on and strap in for a Blacks season for the ages, we can't bloody wait!


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