Sydney University coach Tom Morrison will once again back his young brigade to carry the torch for the Students in 2020 as the club gets its trial games underway this weekend.
After overhauling their list at the beginning of 2019, the Students lost two of their stars leading into this year’s Toyota NEAFL Premiership Season.
NEAFL MVP Jake Bartholomaeus (Northern Blues) and young gun Harry Morrison (Sturt) departed the club for opportunities interstate, but Sydney Uni have kept a lot of their core players, whilst adding young talents James Peatling, Aaron Redhead and Nick Dixon.
Morrison says the young squad exceeded expectations last year, and his 2020 list could be even better.
“We obviously had massive turnover the year before (2019) and we felt that we, although we didn’t achieve the goals we wanted last year, I thought that we probably exceeded what most people’s expectations were of such a young, new group,” he told neafl.com.au.
“We’ve done our best to keep as many of those guys as we can.
“We primarily just bought in more young talent, so we’ll probably be younger than we were last year, but potentially more exciting which is pretty stimulating for us as a coaching group.”
With another pre-season under their belt, the young talent the Students have on offer are expected to improve again in 2020.
But it has been the first-year players that have taken Sydney Uni by storm, with Morrison confirming a number of them will hit the field this weekend.
“The first-year guys who have come in, a number of them are playing this weekend against the Swans,” he said.
“It’s not just the ones who have been there heading into their second year, but the ones who are in their first year have really engaged with the program and have shown a lot of improvement as well.
“It’s exciting to have those guys playing on the weekend and a number of them debut in round one.”
With the Students boasting a range of talent, AFL recruiters will be keeping an eye on how they’re tracking through season 2020.
Morrison believes he has a number of players who could take their game to AFL level this season.
“I think James Peatling has been a real standout since joining us. He was really unlucky not to get drafted last season,” he said.
“Guys from last year who’ve improved across another pre-season, Bailey Stewart, Josh Stern and a few other younger recruits as well in Tristan Hobley and Nick Dixon look pretty exciting, and big Aaron Redhead as well.
“It’ll be interesting to see how those guys go this weekend and then the following week heading towards round one.”
The Students take on the Swans this Saturday at Tramway Oval, with the practice match being the first competitive hit-out for both teams this season.
They’ll also take on the Swans early in the premiership season in round two, but Morrison wants to see his team take their game to another level against tough opposition and focus on their own game.
“We want to see the guys step up against different opposition and we want to see how well our game plan stands up against good opposition, but also how well the group can execute it,” he said.
“They’ve been able to do it really well in internal trial matches, but when you’re against different opposition is when the real test comes.
“It’ll give us a good measuring stick of where we’re at and give us some good understanding of individual players that step up when playing on listed players and on a bigger stage.
“It’ll be pretty much 100 per cent all about us. That’s really our focus to fast track the development of the guys we’ve got, and we feel like if we do that well enough then we’ll be competitive against any team.”
You can see the full practice match schedule here.
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