It has been a smooth transition for Footscray under new coach Darren Nicholas in the Lacrosse Victoria men’s state league.
Rolling out a new game and fresh ideas was likely to take a bit of time for the Bulldogs to adapt, but after a hiccup in the season opener, they have rattled off six consecutive wins to go into the Queen’s Birthday break in third place.
Bulldogs president Tim Lane is pleased with the progress the team has made with a new leader at the helm.
“We dropped our first game, but the constant improvement from week to week since then has been great,” he said.
“We’ve managed to come out on top each of those weeks and we’re still looking to constantly improve throughout the year.”
Footscray was a tricky place to arrive as a new coach.
The Bulldogs have undoubted quality, a premiership level team, but they have narrowly missed out on the premiership each year since their 2013 triumph.
From seasons 2014-16, the Bulldogs played off in three grand finals and lost all three, while last year was a disappointment as they bowed out at the preliminary final stage after going 18-0 in the home-and-away rounds.
A little bit of tinkering was needed at Footscray, rather than an overhaul.
Nicholas has so far been able to embed his philosophies and game style without upsetting the foundations from previous seasons.
His experience at both state league level and internationally has probably helped the transition because there is barely a situation that he is not familiar with.
“He’s been around lacrosse for a long time,” Lane said.
“He’s played for Eltham for the majority of his career and won numerous premierships when they were right up the top and for the last part of his career he played for Williamstown.
“He’s played in world championships, he’s played professionally in America and he brings his skills as a secondary school teacher, so he’s well-rounded.
“He’s the ultimate professional and he’s been great for us so far.”
If there is one aspect that Nicholas honed in on when he arrived at Footscray, it was improving the overall fitness of the side.
If the Bulldogs are to go deep into the finals and feature in close games, he does not want fitness to be a determining factor from his side’s perspective.
“Our main strength that we’ve improved on from previous years is our fitness,” Lane said.
“He’s had a massive influence with that and a strong push to improve our fitness.”
Despite the six-game winning streak, Footscray is still a work in progress and there is no talk of finals or premierships just yet.
“We’ve had a big push to improve week to week,” Lane said. “It’s the old cliche but we’re only looking to improve from the previous week.”
Footscray is also impressing in the new-look women’s premier division. The Bulldogs have entered two teams into the top flight competition with the first team in second place with a 4-1 record and their second side, named Footscray Green, in fifth with a 2-2 record.
“It’s a revamped women’s competition this year,” Lane said. “We’ve got two teams in the top division, which is great.
“Our women’s program has been strong for a long time, so it’s a good challenge for our seconds team to play against the top teams.”
Meanwhile, Footscray will have up to four players representing Australia at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Israel next month.
Bulldogs midfielder Chris Plumb has the honour of captaining the Australian team. “It’s a well earned honour for him,” Lane said.
Defender Jeffrey Melsopp and attackers James Lawerson and Peter Kwas are also part of the squad.