THE SILVERWARE may be a long way off, but a positive outlook remains at Pigeon Park.
Heathcote managed only four wins from their 16 games and suffered several heavy defeats, including a demoralising 253-point loss to North Bendigo in round 10.
But the positive patches, albeit small, have given the club a shot in the arm and the motivation to tackle next season with renewed optimism.
Senior coach Luke Bell admitted his team was outclassed for the majority of the season, but was keen to focus on the Saints’ improvements.
“We won two games in a row, which is something we haven’t done since 2013,” he said.
“There were also a few players who got their first full year of senior footy, which will be a huge boost for us going forward.
“The team is coming from a long way back after a few rough years and our focus was not on wins or losses coming in.
“The goal was and still is to improve ourselves and set the team up for future success. The wins have been a bonus.”
After disappointing results in the first two rounds, the Saints rallied to see off Lockington-Bamawm by 47 points in round three.
Heathcote followed with a double whammy that reminded many of the Saints of old, overcoming Mount Pleasant and Elmore in rounds six and seven in impressive fashion.
Sadly, the nostalgia was short lived with Heathcote managing only one win from their last eight games.
“Obviously we’re a long way off the top five teams,” Bell said.
“We were underdone coming into the season in both skill and fitness. The numbers weren’t great at preseason.
“If you don’t train and touch the footy, you can’t be at your best.”
Bell said he hopes to use the bright patches from this season to build his team in preparation for next year.
“If you’re not successful it’s hard to get motivated. I think the boys weren’t as motivated as they could have been,” he said.
“The feeling at the club is a mix of optimism and disappointment. The boys are disappointed at the overall result but were boosted by some good patches.”
The Saints were fortunate to avoid any major problems with injuries — the only casualty was Corey Gilmore who didn’t return to the field after a wrist injury mid-season.
Several young players impressed at the club, including Lachlan Freeman-Taber and Caleb Luscombe who made a strong case for inclusion in next year’s senior side.
Bell was confident the current senior team will return to Barrack Reserve next year, with only veteran Dan Carroll a possibility of calling it a day.
“I’ll be catching up with all the players over the next couple of weeks, but I think everyone is keen to hang around,” he said.
Bell kept his cards close to his chest when asked about new talent making its way to Heathcote, but said he was eyeing some top-end players.
“I can’t name anyone at this stage but we have a list of 40 players we will speak to over the coming months,” he said.