By Hayley Wildes
The Dandenong Thunder’s NPL Vic 2018 season certainly didn’t go to plan. In 2019, with club legend Veton Korcari calling the shots after taking over head coaching responsibilities midway through last season, there’s a newfound edge and desire within the Thunder.
Thunder superstar and 2018 NPL Vic Golden Boot winner, Brandon Barnes knows that the squad can’t afford another slow start in 2019.
“We definitely need to get off to a better start in 2019 – obviously last year we had a very tough start and we didn’t win for the first seven or so games,” he said.
“We just need to make sure that we start off well, so that we’re in the mix early and just go from there.
“Hopefully we can at least stay inside that top six which is our aim this year.”
Barnes, who didn’t just win the Golden Boot last season, he absolutely blew away the rest of the competition, finishing with 22 goals for the year, six ahead of runner-up Matthew Thurtell from Bentleigh Greens.
After such a great season for Barnes, his focus to improve individually has been on one facet of his game in particular.
“My main focus this year has been fitness,” he said.
“I believe in my ability to always score goals, so just mainly my fitness levels and trying to improve that to make sure I’m prepared for a season against great teams.”
Being prepared for a season against great teams has been driven by Korcari and Barnes believes everyone is on board and trusting the processes put in place.
“Veton is a club legend, everyone has taken to him really well and he’s got the respect of everyone around the club,” he said.
“Even with new assistant coach, John Floros – it’s pretty well known in the game of what he brings to the changeroom and on the pitch.
“All of us are adjusting to it really well and we just can’t wait to get started.”
The Thunder have had a couple of preseason hit-outs and Barnes highlighted a 3-1 win against Heidelberg at home as a real positive.
“We played really well, and it was a great step to see where we are and where we want to be.” He said.
Improving on last season is the aim for the Thunder and they know getting contributions from every player is key to that.
“The main focus really has just been making sure that the whole squad is leading – we don’t like to single out any responsibilities,” he said.
“Just making sure that the 11 on the pitch are leading and we’ve got the remainder of the squad that can come on and make an impact from the sidelines.”
That improvement will also come from some massive additions to the Thunder. The likes of Peter Skapetis, a 23-year-old Central Coast Mariner with international experience, Kieran Dover, a 21-year-old making his return to George Andrews Reserve after spending time with the Melbourne Victory and Christian Cavallo, a 22-year-old who has spent time with Melbourne City.
Their resumes speak for themselves and Barnes may have summed up the Dandenong’s recruiting best; “The Thunder are not really messing around this year with signings and hopefully we can get the job done.”
With a tough, but successful, preseason almost complete, Barnes is ready to get into the real stuff and has his sights set on that round 1 fixture against Hume City.
“I’m pretty fed up with preseason,” he said.
“I just want to get started and get down to business – I can’t wait for the 16th of February.”