I have seen my fair share of Melbourne Mustangs hockey games this season & sitting at the Icehouse watching the team known as the 'Stangs' defeat the high flying Newcastle North Stars, I took the time to jot down some points for the future of the club. Below are just some areas which I believe the club should focus on looking into 2013.
Keep Steve Laforet in charge of the team. With 3 coaches now having been through the club (Laforet in his 2nd stint) it is time for some stability around the Melbourne new boys, that's not to say that the decisions to move on past coaches was wrong, but since Bill Wilkinson's departure we have definitely seen an improved team out on the ice. This past Sunday was the best display the Mustangs have given their loyal home supporters, something which has carried on from the previous 2 games since Laforet had taken over. It is clear to me that the players respect Steve & show a passion that they want to play under him, he was the coach when the club first got off the ground, so he knows the squad well & I feel he should once again be given the opportunity in 2013.
Hold onto Oliver Wren. The Canadian born goaltender has been a breath of fresh air for the Mustangs this season, having a horror start to his AIHL career which included a 10-0 defeat away to Adelaide, Wren now seems to have found his footing in the league. Wren has been a constant positive since coming into the team even when faced with various attacks from opposition forwards, on Sunday he once again came up with some very big saves to help ensure the Mustangs would walk away with a home win, a game which seen him take out the 3rd star. If Wren can get enough protection from the defenders & team in front of him, Mustangs should do everything in their power to get the goalie back for season 2013.
Get bigger bodies & experience. One thing that I have noticed throughout 2012 with the Mustangs is the lack of size & experience they have on the ice. They are a young team & it's a development in process, but more protection & experience for the younger brigade is something the club should look for. They do have some size across the team with Brendan Oakes, Scott Livett & Jake Ebner but they need to get bigger, it's an area which the top teams have that makes them a competitive force. With the oldest player Sean Jones only being 27 years old, it's quite clear that a lack of experience across the group needs to be looked at. Get some big bodies & experience around the much smaller & talented stick handlers & it will only help fast track the young squads development.
Keep core group of players together. While the Mustangs season might not have gone to plan entirely as they are all but gone from playoff contention in 2012, there are some positive signs & ones which I think should be kept together moving forward. Lack of consistency is a tell tale sign of a young sporting team & we see it across all codes, there have been some great results & some disappointing ones, but the talent within the team is definitely there. Which means the core group has what it takes to match it with the best in the AIHL Hardy, Dunstan, Levitt, Robertson just to name a few, are some of the players who need to be kept heading into season 2013. Departures of players who know the system (especially under Laforet) is definitely something the club will be trying to avoid, which is what we seen with Scott Corbett & James Sanford recently, albeit both having their reasons.
These suggestions above might never come to fruition & things could change with the remainder of the 2012 season still to be completed, something the club will firmly have it's sights set on finishing strongly. But if Steve Laforet is willing to continue to take the reigns as Mustangs coach, added with some extra muscle & experience across the squad, 2013 could shape up the as a more successful campaign for the Melbourne club.
By Andrew Macdougall