Burras backing themselves in new-look Division One

The inaugural Warburton-Millgrove Senior Women's Football team. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

The Warburton-Millgrove Football Netball Club (WMNFC) is ready and raring for a big 2024 season in the newly-reformed Outer East Division One competition.

Last year, the Burras had eight teams in finals with five netball teams and the Reserve footballers going all the way and securing the premiership.

WMFNC President Steve Noonan said the club is excited as always for the start of the new season.

“It seems at the end of a previous season, particularly the last two years where all teams have played a big part in finals, the year has stretched out and the summer break is needed,” he said.

“The new season starts quicker than you anticipate, and it really is a nine to ten-month commitment from everyone within the club. I have certainly walked away from the nights I have attended training with a feeling of quiet determination amongst the group to compete strongly this season.”

In 2023, WMFNC’s 17 and Under, D, C, B and A Grade netball sides swept the competition aside to lay claim to the title of the most dominant netball club in the now-abolished Division Two while the Reserves football side effortlessly topped the ladder without a loss during the whole season and finals.

Noonan said the number of players attending training during preseason and the practice

match results across all teams have been really pleasing.

“On the field, it has been about improving and being fully prepared for the expanded first-division competition, off the field it has been about improving club processes to make it easier to administer for volunteers and ensure our sponsors are happy and ready to go again as we seek to remain competitive,” he said.

“The creation of a senior women’s football team in partnership with the Wesburn Junior Football Club has been a big focus to ensure they are supported in their foundation year.”

The senior footballers for the Burras were no slouches last season either, finishing on top of the ladder on percentage and only losing out to eventual premiers Powelltown in the preliminary final.

Noonan said like most clubs over the summer, they have struggled to add to their list but the anticipated improvement of the ‘Baby Burras’ group of under-20s should hold the club in good

stead for the season.

“We feel we are in a good place with our netball, based on the last two years of results and

the strength of our 17 and under side of which players are starting to move up the ranks. The

re-signing of coach Carly Wappett for our A and B grade was important for stability and continuity so our netball program is incredibly strong and in a good place,” he said.

“On the football side, we have two players in Jack Lee and Aiden Westlake returning after long-term injuries which resulted in no significant game time in 2023 so effectively are two new recruits to the backline.”

The Burras have a tough task set ahead of them in Round One, heading down the Warburton Highway to a Seville side that has regularly featured among the upper echelon of Division One sides in recent seasons.

Noonan said he couldn’t single out an individual in either netball or football in particular looks set to take a big step forward this season.

“It’s an old cliché but a team of champions won’t beat a champion team and that is the focus of the coaches,” he said.

“As mentioned, we are excited about the potential upside of our young players in both netball and football. The fact that our coaches are back on board across all teams is a good sign that the talent is there to perform week to week and the netball and football programs are in a stable position.”

The new Division Once competition consists of Seville, Healesville, Belgrave, Powelltown, Yarra Junction, Warburton Millgrove, Alexandra, Yarra Glen and Yea.

Noonan said the club’s new women’s team will kick off the year when they take to the field at Seville and that will be a significant moment for the club.

“Seville has been very strong in what is technically a stronger competition before the restructuring to two divisions, so by extension, we anticipate a formidable outfit all season,” he said.

“We have a challenging start to the year playing two of the previous Division One teams away and Alexandra who were runners up in Division Two last year.”