By CAMERON SMITH
Aspley is one of the most successful non-AFL clubs in the NEAFL, playing in six consecutive finals series which included winning the flag in 2014.
Hornets coach John Blair has been a massive part of the club’s success over that time having transformed the club like Stephen Daniel has done at Southport this year, when he took over in 2013.
Aspley went from ninth in the Northern Conference in 2012 to play in the Northern Conference Grand Final in 2013, before going on to win the flag the year after.
If the Hornets had won on Saturday against Southport they would’ve been preparing to play in their third NEAFL Grand Final this week but instead their “pretty good” season has ended.
“We were two wins away from achieving the ultimate, so it’s been a pretty good year,” Blair told neafl.com.au.
Aspley had a considerable list turnover at the start of the year, which saw former AFL players Andrew Swallow, Jake Spencer and Jono Freeman wearing the brown and gold this year.
There were a number of other players who joined the club as well with 45 per cent of the list being new, which Blair had said during the year would take time to click.
The start of the season was certainly not ideal, as they lost their first three games which raised a number questions of Aspley and their recruiting.
“Because of our previous success, people expect Aspley to be right up the top, and we were up against it in the first five weeks,” Blair said.
Blair said he didn’t change anything drastic after his side were 0-3 but they did make a few tweaks.
The AFL Queensland Hall of Famer instead credited his resilient playing group, for being able to turn their fortunes around.
“We have come a long way since the start of the year,” he said.
“To come out of that five-week period and get to where we got to, is a credit to how hard each and every one has worked.”
The club had a lot of highlights this year, which included last week’s Elimination Final victory over the Brisbane Lions in front of a huge home crowd at Graham Road.
However, the highlight for Blair and the coaching group is the development they have seen in the playing group over the year.
“For me, the highlight is they have worked hard to get here,” he said.
“They enjoy each other’s company and have created a good atmosphere which is why people want to come play at the Aspley Football Club.”
Like Oskar Baker last year, who is now a Melbourne Demons player, the Hornets have again developed a number of young guns over the season.
Will Gowers, Connor Stackelberg and Jasper Craven, highlighted Aspley’s ability to foster and develop talent, with all three players putting together quality performances in the finals.
Blair revealing that developing their younger talent is a crucial component of what the Hornets are about as a football club.
“We are a club, that is based on belief and knowing what we could do with each other’s abilities and up-skilling,” he said.
He admits though, there a few things the club needs to improve over the off-season if they are to go two steps forward next year.
“We’ve got to improve the depth on the list. We also need to improve our body strength. We have developed our running power, but we still need to develop our body strength,” he said.
So, expect the Hornets to be spending a bit of time in the gym this summer, as they prepare for what should be an exciting year next year for the North Brisbane club.
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