The MPNFL Under 19s scored a hard-fought six-point victory over Northern last year. Paul Scanlon, far left, will coach the team against Ovens and Murray at Rosebud on Saturday, May 18.
By David Nagel
Providing an opportunity for local talent is a top priority for Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League (MPNFL) Under-19 coach Paul ‘Chewy’ Scanlon as he prepares his squad for the big clash against Ovens and Murray at Rosebud on Saturday, May 18.
Scanlon and his impressive coaching staff are preparing to showcase the finest young talent in the MPNFL that is not currently tied to a NAB League (formerly TAC Cup) or VFL club.
And that’s exactly the way the 41-year-old, reigning two-time senior league best and fairest winner wants it.
“We want the focus to be on kids that are playing local football and to provide them with the opportunity to shine and progress through a system that has worked for players in the past,” Scanlon said, before explaining the pathway.
“I’ve already spoken with the Vic Country Under-19 coach and put forward a couple of our players for selection in that team. There will also be some recruiters at Rosebud on the day and plenty of players have gone through the Vic Country system and impressed enough to get drafted onto an AFL list.”
Scanlon’s assistants include the equally respected figures of Byron Barry (Frankston YCW), Tim Bongetti (Pines) and Adam Hunter (Dromana), while last year’s Under 19 coach Josh Moore – now at the Dandenong Stingrays – has played a key role in the selection of the 33-strong squad.
The squad has already met for the first time and will come together for three training sessions at Frankston Park on May 6, 13 and 15. The squad will train at the same venue and on the same dates as the senior squad, bringing a club look and feel to this year’s campaign.
“We got the players together and just explained what it means to wear the jumper and the opportunity that they all have ahead of them,” Scanlon said.
“It’s a smaller group than usual, but we’ve done that for a reason and every player will be provided with the opportunity to be involved with this team in one capacity or another.”
The champion midfielder said that conveying the combined experience of the coaching staff onto a young group was also a key component of the program.
“A lot of players in the squad know who we are because they play senior footy against us, they’re equals to us in that regard and that’s the way we would like to keep it,” he said.
“And if some of the other kids look up to us, that’s great as well because we’re here to benefit the footy of all players on the list. It’s been explained to the players that we’re here for them and they can ask us any questions at any time.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to make them better footballers and help them enjoy the experience.”
Scanlon has been a passionate interleague contributor and knows firsthand the challenge that confronts his side on May 18.
“In my time in the Goulburn Valley we played against Ovens and Murray and I remember the under 19s being built like men, with very mature bodies,” he said.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, but we’ve picked a very skilled side that is quick and uses the ball well and it will be interesting to see how that brand of footy stacks up. But basically, I’ve just told the boys to go out and have some fun and showcase their skills.”
And his passion for interleague?
“I don’t understand why blokes knock back the opportunity to play or be involved in interleague footy because it’s really special,” he said.
“Week after week we try and kill each other, but then it’s special to come together and create a bond that can sometimes last a lifetime. Players and coaches should cherish the experience and have some pride in what they have achieved in representing the league and wearing the jumper.”
And is this a forerunner to a coaching career in the future?
“I know Tim (Bongetti) is pretty keen to get involved in coaching down the track and I’m pretty much in the same boat,” Scanlon said.
“I’m not putting a timeframe on anything, but playing won’t last forever and I’d love to stay involved in footy. Whether that’s senior coaching or staying involved with the kids, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.”
The MPNFL Under 19 Squad for 2019 is:
Byron Barry, Tim Bongetti, Adam Hunter.
Brayden Chapple, Will Dunne, Lachlan Stenning.
James Hickey, Zack O’Neil.
Dylan Garrett, Will Macher, Liam Wishart.
Bailey Angwin, Josh Berenger.
Corey Battams, Ash Cadd, Jai Triep.
Adam Boag, Mitch Charles, Josh Dormer.
Will Antonie, Koby Dalais, Cooper De Merlo, Samuel Webster.
Liam Cox, Carrel Deang, Khyal Jacobson, Brendon Purcell.
Dylan Allen, Campbell Robbins.
Lachie Haskett, Nick Mason.