Sport

To hell and back

RECOVERING from a long-term injury is a brutal physical process, something Melbourne AFL player Christian Petracca can certainly testify to. The second pick in the 2015 draft saw his dream of an AFL debut shattered after a season-ending ACL injury in pre-season training. But the 19-year-old Warrandytian insists the mental struggle was more difficult than the physical one, though he is winning the battle. Dealing with the reality of waiting another year to step onto the field, as well as the pressure of being a high draft pick, took its toll on the explosive midfielder. But according to Petracca, some tough love at home, a trip to America and learning some hard lessons along the way helped pave the way to his recovery. The Diary’s MICHAEL DI PETTA takes time out in the young gun’s home town for an update.

Michael: First of all, obviously with the ACL injury, you missed the entire year. As a young player, how do you come back from that?

Christian: Yeah, when I first did it, it was pretty frustrating, obviously I’d never had a setback like this in my life as a footballer, or a sportsperson in general. I didn’t really know how to cope or how to handle the situation, especially being touted as a high draft pick, when the pressure’s already on me. I think the biggest thing I did was to surround myself with good people. My family was supportive throughout the whole year and obviously so was everyone down at the footy club. You’ve got 44 blokes on a list and it really helps; any day if you’re feeling flat, you can talk to any of them.

MD: What was some of the best advice you got from some of the blokes at Melbourne or from the family?

CP: Make the most of it, you’re only in the gym for a year, so really try and harness the experience and get your body right. Also, they told me it’s probably the best time to do a knee, if you were to do one, right at the start of your career, so really just focus on working hard and being a better person.

MD: And the family?

CP: They’ve done everything, I get home, they’ve probably seen I’ve had a bad day and they give a lot of sup- port. My brothers haven’t changed and that’s probably the best thing, they’ve kept on telling me to suck it up. I don’t want them to change just because I’ve done a knee, or become an AFL footballer or anything, but it’s good because we haven’t changed at all. Mum and Dad have been really good the whole year, even off the field, just helping me through and it’s what I needed.

MD: What were some of the things you did, or techniques you used to keep yourself physically and emotionally motivated throughout the period?

CP: It was quite a boring year, I guess, because every day I did the exact same stuff – there was no real change, it was just basically leg strength. Every day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be my main days for running, gym and we did these other little exercises with that which would basically take up the whole day. And on Tuesday and Thursdays, which were my days off, I’d still be doing a bike session, or a swim to keep the cardio going. Then on top of that, you’ve got to fit in the meetings with the main group and all the game style reviews, and reviews from training. So you’re pretty busy; it’s a full time job. I’m probably more mentally fatigued then physically, just because it really has been a long year. I just can’t wait to start.

MD: When you were sitting out on the sidelines you must of learnt a lot about playing and being in the AFL, even though you weren’t out on the field.

CP: Yeah definitely, I think the biggest thing that I found was that talent only gets you so far, you could have another one of these injuries and your career might be over. It’s a really cutthroat industry and one minute you could be pick No.1 and the next minute you could be delisted. You’ve just got to work hard and earn respect, and that’s the biggest thing that I found. At the start of my career, I thought I’d rather be liked, but it’s more about working hard and earning respect from your teammates.

MD: You went to the US recently to take part in a rehabilitation program, what kind of different stuff were you doing over there?

CP: I was actually surprised, it was quite similar stuff, but Billy Knowles, the ACL specialist, made things a lot more specific with the drills we were doing. It was a lot of hard work, it was two two-hour sessions a day for five days, it would be all legs, a lot of gym, and a lot of focusing on landing, jumping and controlling. Obviously he knows a lot of statistics and he was telling me a lot of ACLs are done when you are decelerating, so not when you’re speeding up, but when you are slowing down. That’s how I did my knee, so we were focusing a lot on how to plant your feet or when you’re jumping and you get hit in the air, learning how to land properly. It was really good, it gave me a really good insight and I’ve come back from Philadelphia really confident in my knee. Mentally it was really weird: he sort of connected the wires from my mind to my leg, he made me think while I’m up in the air, this is how I’m going to land. I didn’t really know how to do that kind of thing, but now that I’ve gone there it really gave me a good insight on how to do it.

MD: So do you feel like your knee is back to 100%?

CP: I don’t think it will ever be back to 100%, I still have deficiencies in some areas, but I’ve spoken to a lot of boys and they’ve said similar things – not every ACL is the same. But at the moment it feels really good and I’m doing everything I can, and when we get to Day 1 of pre-season, I’m sure I’ll be able to do a lot, probably not the contact work, but I’ll probably build into it.

MD: Explosiveness was one of the words used to describe you coming into the draft. Do you feel you will have to modify your game in any way to still have the same impact?

CP: Not at all, I’ve always been quite an explosive player. The most frustrating thing about the injury was that I did it while I was moving. With my strength being agility, playing a lot of basketball, it really frustrated me because I’ve probably done that action so many times on the field, but I don’t think it will change my game in any way. I’ll still be the same player.

MD: Melbourne showed some really positive signs. Didn’t win too many games, but there were some really good signs from young blokes like Hogan and Brayshaw. With you coming back, how strong is the foundation for the footy club over the next few years?

CP: We’ve shown this year – well it’s been a bit inconsistent with the wins on the board – but we definitely have improved and we’ve got a really good base of young guys who have really helped us.

It’s really good going to a club every day knowing there are young guys around your age who are really there for one reason – to win premierships. It’s a really good feeling to know we definitely have the group to do that in the future.

MD: So, what’s your personal goal for the season ahead? What do you want to accomplish?

CP: I have some goals that I like to set, but for now it’s really just getting through pre-season unscathed. If I play Round 1, I do, if I don’t it’s really just focusing on playing some games this year. Pre-season this year is shorter, the NAB Cup starts in early Feb, but for me I think if I can get through Christmas I’ll be on the home straight.

Spectacular summer opener for athletes

THE summer season kicked off on AFL Grand Final day with young athletes in hot form in the warm conditions, especially young runner Harriette Glover. Pre-season training was clearly evident with the up and coming middle distance runner performing well and winning the opening day 800m.

In the Under 10s category Rhianna Cummings was finding it tough at the end of the first lap of the 800m, but a short drink on the side of the track was enough to recharge her batteries for a sprint in the final 300m. The effort displayed terrific confidence and inner belief that Rhianna and her teammates, Cloe Woolard (back from a sojourn in Tasmania) and training partner Holly Hansen, can use to achieve some great results.

Shane Mills was back running strongly in the U10s and Odette Rusciano-Barrow returned in the U9s along with older sister Marchella in the U14s. The sisters are hoping to make a run at the state finals for the hurdles event after a strong winter season.

The relay season starts in October culminating in the Victorian State Championships at Lakeside Oval. This will be followed by the regional and state track and field championships and the state multi event – an event based on a variation of the decathlon. Furthermore, October is bring a friend month where mates can try out the sport for free.

For more information on East Doncaster Little Athletics contact coaching director Peter Sharpe 0413 777 107.

Netball seven heaven

THE end of the 2015 winter season capped off one of the strongest finishes in memory for the Warrandyte Netball Club as nine teams reached the grand final: three open age teams and six under age teams.

Playing at the Lower Templestowe courts against strong op- position including Donvale, East Doncaster and Eltham, seven teams managed to take home premiership glory, crowning Warrandyte as the winners on the day in the Doncaster and District Netball Competition.

A terrific day of finals competition kicked off early morning with the Under 13/2 Warrandyte Stingers team up against Doncaster Youth Club Kool Kats. The Stingers were quietly confident going into the Grand Final, having already defeated their opponents by eight goals in the semi final.

The match was tight throughout the first half with the teams going goal for goal. However, the game changed in the third quarter with the Warrandyte goalies putting on a number of scores in quick succession to give them momentum into the fourth quarter. The team morale quickly lifted as more and more goals went in and the Stingers eventually claimed victory by 18 goals.

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Under 13/2 Warrandyte Stingers

Later in the morning two Under 15s teams took the court. The Under 15/1 Warrandyte Pythons were to play their long-time rivals Donvale Dominatorz.

With just one loss for the season, Donvale was firm favourite for the premiership, but unfortunately for the Dominatorz the Warrandyte Pythons hadn’t read the script.

The Pythons went in hard and played to win, displaying strong defense in a well umpired game. Warrandyte’s fight proved too much for Donvale in defeating them for the first time this season (by eight goals) when it really mattered.

In another Warrandyte versus Donvale match up, the U15/3 Warrandyte Cobras took on the Donvale Dollz, a rematch of the semi final which Donvale dominated, winning 39-16. With that in mind, Warrandyte came out fighting and was up by six goals at quarter time.

The game was tighter in the second and third quarters and with only eight players on court, Warrandyte dug deep and fought to maintain a one goal advantage at three quarter time. In the last quarter, the game went goal for goal. With only minutes to spare and the score drawn, Warrandyte fought hard and stole the ball to sink the final goal to claim a classic final win.

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U15/3 Warrandyte Cobras

After lunch three Under 17 teams took the court. Never before had the Under 17/1 Warrandyte Jaguars beaten the Deep Creek Crystals. The semi final meeting was one to forget for Warrandyte, with Deep Creek winning convincingly 53-22. The girls went in with a positive attitude and nothing to lose, and cool heads once again prevailed with a fairytale victory for Warrandyte in a nailbiter. Cheers were heard far and wide as the players jumped all over each other to celebrate a two-goal win.

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Under 17/1 Warrandyte Jaguars

The U17/2’s Warrandyte Leopards took on Deep Creek Aquamarines. During the season the two teams had a tight tussle for first and second spot on the ladder and met each other in the semi final where the Leopards won to progress. Deep Creek was able 
to fight through the elimination final to face Warrandyte again, this time at the big dance. With just seven players, the Leopards showed strong fight but lost in an arm wrestle, succumbing by four goals.

In our only match up for the day against Eltham, the Under 17/3 Warrandyte Lynx faced the Eltham Firebirds. With only four teams in the section, the teams knew each other well and in previous meetings the Lynx had beaten Eltham only once. Going in as underdogs, the girls played a wonderful game of netball and the mateship between the girls was unparalleled. It was a close game for three quarters but the Lynx fell by six goals.

With the junior finals concluded, the Open teams took the court 
in the afternoon. The Open A Warrandyte Falcons took on the Deep Creek Diamonds, whose only loss for the season came against Warrandyte in Round 8. The game was always going to be hard fought and emotionally charged, as it was Amie Dusting’s 400th game for Warrandyte Netball Club.

With composure and plenty of support from parents, Warrandyte brought home the win to celebrate another great milestone for Amie and break a six-year drought for the Open A team.

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Open A Warrandyte Falcons

Coming into the finals season, the Warrandyte Open B Tigers were clear favourites, remaining undefeated for the season. However, they received a reality check in the semi finals, losing to the East Doncaster Jets by four goals. That forced the Tigers to play Warrandyte Hawks in the elimination final, which they managed to win by three goals. When the Tigers and the Jets met again in the Grand Final, it was the Tigers turn to growl, beating East Doncaster by 16 goals.

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Open B Warrandyte Tigers

In the Open C section, Donvale loomed as the team to be reckoned with. Sitting on top of the ladder after a flawless season, they were the team to beat in the Grand Final after the Warrandyte Red Robins girls won a very convincing semi final game against DYC to reach the event.

The Red Robins were confident and knew if they played their own game they could beat Donvale and that’s exactly how it panned out. The fourth quarter saw the Red Robins overtake Donvale’s score and run away with a terrific four-point win.

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Open C Warrandyte Red Robins

That win was Warrandyte’s seventh and final premiership win for the day, a remarkable achievement in the eyes of president Meaghan Cross.

“It has been a great day of netball for Warrandyte and has capped off another terrific season. The club is going from strength
to strength with recent seasons seeing record numbers of players and teams,” Cross said.

Venom glory as Youth Men claim title

WARRANDYTE Venom ended the season with a massive weekend just passed, with both the women and men’s youth league sides competing in Big V finals for a mixed bag.

The boys team took home an inaugural championship for the Venom Youth Men, but unfortunately, though playing brilliantly, the girls just fell short but have done them- selves, the club and the community proud with great displays of talent, sportsmanship and mateship.

The huge crowd at Warrandyte Sports Complex on Saturday night witnessed not only a terrific game of high-spirited basketball, but also a historic win for the Venom. The first title for the men’s side of the program was a landmark victory for the 15 players involved in the 2015 team and also a reflection on the entire junior boys program at Warrandyte that feeds the Big V element.

Playing the talented Mornington Breakers, it was always set to be a physical affair. The young Venom team was ruthless with its attack on the basketball and hunger for the contest. In a tightly contested match with many ebbs and flows, the Venom claimed victory 79-70 after 40 gruelling minutes.

In a terrific team performance certain individuals also stamped their authority on the game: Justin Ronan-Black finished with 19 points, Nick Spicer had 15 and there were three other players registering double-digit scores.

The defensive efforts and overall court attack by Callum Langmaid landed him grand final MVP recognition, having racked up eight assists and five steals.

The club and community can look forward to seeing the first Big V Men’s championship banner unveiled at the Warrandyte Sports Complex in the coming weeks.

After limited sleep after the excitement of Saturday night’s game, the Warrandyte Venom faithful then made the journey to Broadmeadows stadium on Sunday to support the Youth League Women.

The team was out to conquer title favourites Hume City Broncos on their home floor, a tough ask given the Broncos finished the campaign with a 20-1 season record.

The Broncos came out early and notched a handy double-digit lead, but the typical Venom competitiveness kicked in to make it clear they were up to the task. The game was a physical and strategic affair and both sides were relentless with ball pressure.

The Venom players fought admirably to reduce the deficit to single figures but were unable to break the Broncos down, eventually falling 60-46.

Venom’s Simone Caruana finished the game on 14 points and eight rebounds, while Maddie Taylor added 10 points and seven boards. There were a number of other contributors in the spirited defeat and the Venom women certainly took it to their opposition to finish a terrific campaign.

Another wonderful year for Warrandyte in the Big V competition will be commemorated with two big celebratory occasions in the coming weeks.

Sunday August 23 from 3pm to 6pm the Venom Big V Awards function will be held at the Grand Hotel Warrandyte with everyone welcome.

Bloods fall in thriller

WARRANDYTE suffered an upset one-point loss to Kilsyth at Pinks Reserve on the weekend, in one of the most captivating games of the Eastern Football League Division 4 season.

Despite holding a slender lead into the final change, Kilsyth surged late in a frantic last quarter to topple the Bloods, who
were without key player Arthur Lamaris. Warrandyte was the victim of a couple of questionable umpiring decisions late in the final term, which shifted momentum and allowed Kilsyth to see the game out.

The loss means Warrandyte holds top position on the ladder over Forest Hill only by percentage, with both sides recording 10 wins and two losses so far this season.

Both sides started slowly out of the blocks in icy conditions and shots on goal were at a premium. A lack of talk in the middle between Warrandyte players was evident, as poor communication resulted in turnovers and errors as the Bloods tried to break the lines.

Poor kicking for goal cost the Bloods dearly in the opening term, registering four behinds after kicking their opener.

Warrandyte was playing the game in their half of the ground, but star Kilsyth forward Jay Sherlock kicked true after a strong constested mark to give the home team a three-point lead going into the first change.

The second term began much in the same vein as the first. Luke Dunn managed to boot an early goal to give the Bloods the lead back, but again Kilsyth respond- ed.

A lack of presence at ground level in the forward line for Warrandyte meant Kilsyth was able to mop up when the ball hit the deck and rebound effectively before the Bloods could set up.

Another classy Sherlock goal at the end of the term gave Kilsyth a nine-point lead at half-time.

Often known as the premiership quarter, Warrandyte showed
an increased level of desire at the beginning of the third term. Chad Gauci, who had the ball on a string throughout the first half, kicked a terrific goal to start the Bloods surge.

Suddenly, Warrandyte’s tall for- ward line was firing on all cylinders and three quick goals to Lee Evans had the Bloods fans in full voice approaching the final term.

The six-goal period saw Warrandyte start the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead. What followed was a terrific display in running end-to-end football, with both sides using the corridor at breakneck speed. Kilsyth kicked the opening major to cut the lead down to 10, but Luke Dunn replied just seconds later for Warrandyte.

However, Kilsyth’s big names stood up when it counted. Sherlock and Ben Mullett began to win the footy in dangerous areas and Mullett put through a big goal to give Kilsyth a seven-point lead just minutes from time.

Warrandyte scrambled one through late to bring the deficit to just one point, but the siren sounded to deny the Bloods victory. The final score: 13.5.83 to 12.10 82.

The defeat ends a run of three consecutive victories for the Bloods, including a 120-point crushing of Surrey Park and wins over Ferntree Gully and Glen Waverley. Ashley Froud was particularly dominant, booting 19 majors in the three games to cement his place on top of the goalkicking table.

With six games left of the regular season, the Bloods are in prime position to secure a top two position heading into finals and with key players Luke Dunn and Lee Evans returning to fitness and key onballer Lamaris to come back, the side will only get stronger.

The Reserves have also continued their good form, defeating Kilsyth in a scrappy affair. Dominant 100-plus point victories against Surrey Park and Glen Waverley book-ended a convincing victory over Ferntree Gully.

Gareth Hitchman’s goalkicking has been spectacular in recent weeks, backing up an 11-goal performance against Surrey Park with eight majors against Ferntree Gully.

Hitchman now has 60 goals for the year in just 11 games and a couple more large hauls could bring the century within reach.

Sitting second on the ladder with 11 wins behind the unbeaten Forest Hill, the Reserves will aim to chase down the division leaders throughout the back half of the season.

The Under 19s have moved into third place on the ladder after
a routine win against Kilsyth, restricting their opposition to just one goal. A close loss to Surrey Park and a defeat at the hands of Ferntree Gully saw the U19s slipping slightly, but a big win over Forest Hill steadied the ship ahead of the Kilsyth fixture.

The Bloods face off against Forest Hill away this week, in a big clash which could decide who tops the EFL ladder come the end of the season.