St Albans’ ‘spirit’ eyeing season opener

December 22, 2023 11:30 am in by
Brock McDonald is set to make his GFNL return in 2024. (Marcel Berens/Sports Media)

Talented St Albans youngster Brock McDonald is on track for a Round 1 return from a serious knee injury that ended his 2023 season before it started.

McDonald, who finished third in the Supersaints’ best-and-fairest the previous year, suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament during a tackling drill at training in February.

In positive signs for St Albans, the 19-year-old started running last month with an eye on the season opener against St Joseph’s on April 13 at Concept Oval.

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“He’s been really disciplined with his rehab and done everything that’s been asked of him,” coach Alex Tortora said.

“He’s been running for the last month or so, and he’s just commenced some side movement.

“We’re hoping he can get into some contact (training) in February and hopefully play a practice game or two before Round 1.

“We’re really excited to have him back, and the players are really, really excited to see him running around and doing warmups with us.”

Tortora revealed McDonald used the time of his feet in the gym.

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“He’s already a pretty strong kid, (but) he’s definitely put on some size,” Tortora said.

“He’s definitely stronger in the upper body, which is really good.

“We feel like he’s a pretty good mark for his size, and this is going to make him even stronger in the contest.

“He’s the spirit of our footy club in a lot of ways. The passion that he has really filters through to the other players when they see him working so hard.”

McDonald wasn’t the only star sidelined for all or a majority of 2023 at Concept Oval.

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Sam Wolfenden didn’t play a game, Hayden Elliott made just four appearances, and Sam Donegan missed eight matches.

“They’re all training really well,” Tortora said.

“We’re looking forward to getting them back into the team. It’s like we’ve got three new recruits there.

“And then you add Brock to that list as well; there are four players who didn’t have a big say in 2023, but we’re hoping they will in 2024.”

Despite Ross Celano (Drysdale) being the only recruit with senior experience from elsewhere, the return of that quartet and the addition of some young talent from other clubs has Tortora bullish about St Albans’ prospects in 2024.

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Among those is Zac Larkins from Newtown & Chilwell, who played in the Eagles’ under-18 Division 1 premiership team and represented the Vic Country Diversity All-Stars team in 2023.

“We feel like we’ve improved our depth a lot,” he said. “We’ve got some young boys who have come in like Zac Larkins.

“And there are four or five others that have come in from other clubs who I’ve had a relationship with through school.

“They’re going to get a real taste of it early.

“Whilst they’re raw in terms of GFL experience, we feel they’ve added to our depth considerably.

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“There are some boys there that we think, with some work and time, will be GFL players.”

St Albans, which snapped a 43-game losing streak with its Round 15 win over Lara, will play practice matches against Portarlington, Modewarre and Camperdown before facing Joeys to kick off its campaign.