By Tyler Lewis
Luca Goonan has football attributes that can’t be taught.
The tough inside midfielder has had a unique entry into the Dandenong side, but is now a regular for the Stingrays with his brute strength around the contest.
Goonan has been in and out of selected 23 for the Stingrays over the past year, but a solid stint at senior footy level for Mt Eliza has only helped the 18-year-old improve his most valuable asset.
“If I wasn’t playing Stingrays I was playing seniors last year and that was awesome,’ he said.
“Getting the opportunity to play against men, full grown men – obviously the first game I was a bit nervous but once you get used to it, it was bloody awesome.
“The culture is just insane.
“I played a bit of forward at the start, and then the wing and I ended up sneaking my way into the midfield by finals time.
“I played two finals, Pines and Frankston YCW – we lost against Pines and we beat YCW, I got picked for the Stingrays so couldn’t play against Sorrento and they (Mt Eliza) lost.
“Then I got dropped further into finals and I had no footy to play.
“From that experience last year, once I came back and played a lot of NAB League I am used to the bodies.”
In 2019, Goonan has improved immensely and often has been the source of contested football for the Rays, but he still holds a harsh microscope upon himself for improvement.
“I go too hard sometimes; I end up getting into trouble by the umps for running into people,” he said.
“I have got a lot smarter around the footy.
“But I definitely want to improve my running capacity to run out games and my speed as well.
“My marking is good but I want to improve my running to put myself in more marking opportunities.”
As many NAB League players do, they have an abundance of influencers on their growing careers, but Goonan says he can’t shy away from the advice of his coaches at the Stingrays who have helped him turn his year around from injury and his dad who coached him to junior success.
“I had a slow start to the year, didn’t have a great start and unfortunately got injured at the half-way mark, missed about four weeks of footy through a calf injury,” he said.
“I came back and against Sandy, and found my feet a bit and playing some alright footy.
“Other than Nick Cox the actual coach, Josh Moore, the midfield coach – I obviously spend a bit of time with him.
“He (Josh Moore) has been pretty good this year, so Moorey and Coxy have been great.
“But dad has been huge, he has definitely been my biggest influence in footy.
“We had a pretty couple years in junior footy for Mt Eliza, in 2016 and 2017 we won back to back flags – that was pretty awesome.
“Through those flags we won, he (dad) was the coach.
“He has been seriously helpful, bit of a legend – he doesn’t push me too hard but he’s been awesome.”
Goonan is currently studying year 12 at Padua College and like his footy is trying his hardest to place himself in the best position for a sustainable future, while avoiding the hype of being a top ager.
“At the moment I am trying not to think about that stuff, I am just trying to enjoy my footy and whatever happens, happens,” he said.
“With school, I am not stressed with what I get at the end of the year, I want to get a decent score but every night I try and do something.
“I try and do even if it is an hour of something, even on nights I have training and I am too tired to even think I will get some notes down just to reinforce stuff I have learned during the day.
“On the nights I don’t have Stingrays training I will try and get some work done.
“I obviously try and maximise my time at school because I haven’t got much time out of it so whenever I am at school I give it a red hot crack.”
In the Wildcard Round for Dandenong on Sunday, Goonan collected 22 disposals, six inside 50s and five tackles to be best on ground – playing an integral part in the 21-point win for the Stingrays that place them as the danger side in September.