In the first of a 10-part summer series, The Standard looks at why Hamilton Kangaroos fans should be buoyant about the 2018 Hampden league season.
1: The key recruit
Tim Meulendyks adds class and experience to the Kangaroos’ midfield. The former SANFL footballer, who will impart his knowledge as an assistant coach, last played for his home club in 2014. Roos coach Matt Dunn expects Meulendyks to make a major impact. “His foot skills and ability to read the game are his key assets,” he said. “He is a comfortable 50-metre plus kick on both feet. He probably doesn’t kick it as far as his brother (Josh) but he covers the ground pretty well.” Smart decision-maker Tyrone Ross, another to return to the fold with TAC Cup and VFL experience, also has Dunn excited.
2: Tall timber
An influx of height in attack via the returning Hugh Douglas and recruit Charlie Nield will bolster the Roos’ spine. Dunn is hopeful the new targets will lift their goalkicking prowess. “Charlie kicked 60-odd goals in the Mininera (league) last year, and he’s another one around the 6’3, 6’4 mark, and getting Jack Hickey back out on the ground, he can play at either end and also in the ruck, will help and hopefully we’ll see a bit more of Adam Campbell this year,” he said. “Jandre Slabbert is another one who is around six foot three and while he probably plays most of his footy in the back half, he can go forward as well.”
3: The new kids
The Kangaroos hope the names Seth Fiegert, Rory Gill and Dylan Starkie become well known in Hampden circles in 2018. The teenage midfield trio have impressed Dunn. Fiegert played all 18 matches last season, while Starkie got a taste of senior competition. Gill, who was named best on ground in the under 16 grand final, also made his senior debut. “Both Rory and Dylan have got stronger builds,” he said. “Dylan is a smart footballer who works pretty hard and Rory is fairly fearless...and Seth is only a little fella but works really hard and loves the challenge.”
4: Stability at the top
Hamilton Kangaroos knew it would take time as a merged club to find their identity. But hard work off the field to build and promote their brand, coupled with a consistent leadership group, has delivered the desired results. “We want to be putting really strong foundations in place and we want to see a little bit of success now,” Dunn said. “We know it’s going to be tough with the way the teams at the top end have recruited and retained their players but we’ve got an aim that we want to be playing finals footy this year.”
5: Rising expectations
The time for the Roos to become a challenger is now. After little onfield success in their first five seasons in the competition, they must now show they’re not just making up the numbers. Teams can either thrive or dissolve under pressure? Which way will Dunn’s charges go? “We will have an expectation that we want to be a consistent team that plays well every week and those lapses we’ve probably been guilty of over the years, we need to overcome that,” the third-year coach said. “The teams at the top end of the table aren’t looking like dropping off, so we really need to start stepping up to the plate.”