It was a cold Thursday night at Koonung Reserve and it was obvious for Nunawading Lions coach Paul Beven that something was in the air.
Beven had a full group of 34 players rock up for training, some even arrived early, strapped and ready to go. The joint was buzzing.
The Lions are bottom of the ladder in the Eastern Football League standings and have gone without a win longer than the shelf life of some Aussie Prime Ministers.
However, the main focus of the club is the countdown until next Sunday’s Battle of the Battlers marquee match against the Ardmona Cats.
The blockbuster is a clash between two battling Victorian footy clubs, the Lions and the Cats.
The marquee fixture will be held at Nunawading’s Koonung Reserve next Sunday with $10,000 going to the winning team.
“When I spoke with the guys about whether to play the game everyone was very positive about it and loved the idea,’’ Beven said. “I had a bit of a chuckle at training. Game day is getting closer and the entire squad turned up, they got right into it and it’s obvious that they all want to play.’’
Beven (pictured) has lived in the district most of his life, he grew up at Box Hill and was playing when he was six years-old. Apart from two-years away from the game he has never been far away from a Sherrin.
He knows what footy means to the community, he’s celebrated and cried along with them.
Beven was with the Lions in 2002 when the maroon and gold won the Flag, but there hasn’t been a lot of highlights since. Now in his second year at the helm, along with a staunch band of supporters and officials, Beven is doing his best to get the club back to Flag winning potential.
“I’ve seen the good times and the bad. Before 2002 we were struggling, but we worked hard, turned things around and tasted success. It will take time, but I’m confident we can do it again,’’ he said.
“The character at this club astounds me sometimes. They’re the most resilient bunch of people I’ve met. Most of the players are under 25, we all get along and there’s a positive vibe about the place and we cop the small wins along the way.’’
Actual match wins have been few and far between, but Beven prefers to take as many positives out of each game.
Beven recalled the closest they had come to a win in two years. Last month against Coldstream the Lions had clawed to within four points of the lead and a goal bound shot shaved the post.
“We nearly pinched that game, but a shot that would have put us in front hit the post,’’ Beven said.
“The boys were shattered, we wasted some opportunities, but to be on the cusp of a win and lose hurt a lot more.
“I have to be realistic, but the positives always outweigh the negatives with this team. Last year our losing average was 254 points, we’ve more than halved that and got it down to 117 this season and we’ve lost six games under 100 points.’’
Beven is already locked in for the job next season and win lose or draw against Ardmona he has no doubt the battle Of the Battlers will be great for both clubs.
“Everyone around here is talking about the Battle of the Battlers, I reckon we’ll get a big turnout at the game. Off the field is just as important to clubs and we have a great group of supporters.
“Rebuilding is a slow process and at the end of the day this match could be a good platform to finish the year and prepare for next season.”
Whatever the outcome of the Battle of the Battlers, after talking with Beven this match is going to be a win-win for everyone involved.