Former AFL-listed player Nick O’Kearney has impressed on his return to his junior club Keilor.
O’Kearney spent two years on St Kilda’s rookie list and was delisted at the end of the last year. He will play for the Essendon District Football League premier division club full-time.
Blues coach Mick McGuane said O’Kearney was leading the way and hadn’t dropped his head despite the end of his AFL career.
“Nick has been absolutely great,” McGuane said. “His attitude hasn’t changed and he’s setting high standards at training and a lot are following his lead.”
O’Kearney is one of several new faces at the Blues this season. McGuane said they recruited aggressively to fill some voids.
He said the return of Michael Tanner from injury and Jesse Wallin, from Rupertswood, were big additions as well.
“Those guys add talent,” he said. “Matthew Clark from Macleod has a great work rate and will be a fantastic foil for Dean Galea.
“John Martin comes from the Sunraysia Football and Netball League where he won the competition medal and will give us some really strong contest around the middle.
“Jackson McMahon is a strong accumulator of the ball.”
McGuane said former West Coast-listed player Damien Cavka would also be like a new recruit. Cavka returned to his junior club last season after a foot injury forced him to retire from the AFL at just 19.
“Damien was a week-to-week proposition last year, so he’s basically like a new recruit and building towards the start of the season.
“He’s also coaching the under-17s, so he’s involved with the club as well.”
Luke Cartelli, Eamonn Ogden and Jason Williams have moved on to other clubs and McGuane said his nephew Luke McGuane wouldn’t play.
McGuane said the side was looking in better shape than it was 12 months ago.
Coming off a premiership, the Blues finished fifth.
“About this time we lost Michael Tanner to a knee reco, Luke [McGuane] was fairly sick and Sam Hooper had done his knee. That’s three players you don’t expect to have on the sidelines.
“You can look at last year in a couple of different ways. We didn’t play finals which is disappointing, but you look at the reasons why.
“We lost three key position players in the middle of February and not many sides will recover. We still finished fifth ahead of some competent sides.
“The healthy part is the progression we got into some of the younger players.”
Meanwhile McGuane has added the role of head of junior coaching and player development to his duties.
He alongside senior player Guy Barbuto have taken on the role, which is aimed at streamlining the coaching throughout the club.