By Hayley Wildes
It was time for a change.
After not winning a game of senior football in two seasons, Hampton Park needed a fresh start and a move to the Southern Football Netball League (SFNL) offered exactly that.
Having suffered through another 0-16 season in the South East Football Netball League (SEFNL) in 2017, the Redbacks joined SFNL Division 3 – the beginning of what has been a dramatic turnaround for the club.
“We won by 10 goals against the bottom side recently and there was genuine disappointment,” coach Jason Chapple said.
“To not win in two years and then all of a sudden you’re disappointed with a 10-goal win, it’s amazing how expectations change pretty quickly, but that’s all part of it and that’s a good thing.
“I think divisional footy is the way to go – you’re able to build a culture and it’s pretty hard to set rules and expectations in teams when you’re losing every week, because guys just walk away.
“This year with the firsts and seconds winning games, it makes it easier to coach and builds a different feel, atmosphere and culture – it’s much better for the footy club.”
Having coached the Redbacks from 2005-07, Chapple returned to Hampton Park for the 2018 season and has the team flying.
Hampton Park is entrenched in a battle – with Springvale Districts and Endeavour Hills – for a top-two finish and the crucial double chance.
Chapple talked about bringing in quality players to the club and being able to compete with the best teams in the competition.
“Good footballers want to play in September so when you can see that there’s an opportunity to play finals, players are more likely to come over and come over early as well.”
The likes of Daniel Boudoloh, Travis Davis, Jackson Fry, Michael Henry, Shannon Henwood, Harley Primrose, Taylor Rainey and Mitch Woolgar have all played massive roles in Hampton Park’s turnaround.
Nathan Carver – second in the league for goals with 41 majors – has also been vital. His presence up forward demands respect and he has ran riot inside 50 all season.
Chapple has instilled a team-first attitude at Hampton Park and wants his s to be the toughest to play against in the competition.
“You can have a heap of tricks if you want, but I just want to the opposition to walk away from each game knowing that they’ve played Hampton Park,” he said.
“I want to defend hard and I want to be hard to play against. You can be defensive and still be exciting, so I like moving the footy quick and making defenders nervous by forcing them to defend.
“I like seeing blokes natural talents come out – footy has got to be fun and I want it be fun to watch too.”
Fighting for a top-two finish is a far cry from searching for a solitary win, but Hampton Park is not satisfied. When September rolls around, they will be ready.
“We are really looking forward to finals and we definitely have an opportunity come September, that’s for sure,” Chapple said.
“The top four are all pretty good teams and it’s anyone’s game when it gets to the end of the year.”
The mood around Robert Booth Reserve is filled with positivity and a real desire for success. There is no doubt that the Redbacks are enjoying their new life in the SFNL.