Finals fade-out adds to Craigieburn Eagles’ motivation

Damon Smith. Picture Shawn Smits.

By Tara Murray

A disappointing finals exit still burns for Craigieburn Eagles’ Big V division 2 men’s side.

Having finished on top for a second straight year, the Eagles were again bundled out without making the grand final series this season, keeping them in division 2.

Eagles coach Simon Wilson, who was named Big V men’s division 2 coach of the year, said they were obviously disappointed not to be able to convert their regular season form into finals wins.

“It adds to the motivation,” he said.

“All the players are putting in the work away from the team and coming back hungry. Everyone is coming back hungry and a little bit disappointed with the team, and with their own performances, as well.”

Wilson said they had spent the past few months working on the things that let them down in their 2-1 loss to Mildura Heat in the semi-finals in August.

All three of the Eagle’s finals this season went down to the wire, the biggest margin being six points. “We’ve definitely got the foundations there,” Wilson said. “Hopefully we can build on what we were doing.

“We’ve been focusing on our execution.

“It’s pretty much to do with executing and about consistency.

“It’s about being disciplined and overall being smarter, making the right plays.”

Wilson said they were still to finalise their roster and new signings, but were hopeful of having that sorted early next year.

He said they would likely have a similar group to this year, with most of the core group, which has played together for a number of years, returning.

Mark Welch, who played his 200th game in the finals, has retired.

In a big bonus for the club, American import and league division 2 most valuable player, Damon Smith has signed on for another two years.

Smith averaged nearly 19 points and 10 rebounds a game in his first season in Australia.

Wilson said Smith, who has returned home for the break, would be back in Australia in February.

“He’ll be back in the first week of February,” he said. “Last time he came out, he came out right before the season started.

“It’ll give him time to get to know the new faces and get familiar with them.

“He is a great asset for the club and is great with the juniors.

“He wants to be involved with the juniors and makes the whole club stronger.”

Wilson said they would also look at giving some of their youth league players more opportunity in the senior team next season.