By Sam Watson

LAST week Dalyston announced the re-signing of first year head coach Peter Dunlop for the 2022 season.

Although the senior side hasn’t had the results they wanted so far, Magpie president Andy Thomas said the culture Dunlop’s instilled made it a no-brainer to re-sign him.

“What we’re looking for is a bit of stability, and we’ve been really impressed with the way Pete has tried to build a culture and a togetherness with better discipline,” Thomas said.

“We know where we’re at; we’ve just got to put a solid base in there.”

“He really gets the blokes to bond together, he can talk the leg off a chair.”

Dunlop, who played 151 senior games in the black and white, said the decision to go on next year was also an easy one.

“It was really exciting to get the job in the first place, and after having eight weeks at the helm, it’s been very enjoyable,” Dunlop said.

“Obviously, we’ve had a few down years in the win’s column, so we knew this was never going to be a snap of the finger job, it was always going to be a reboot.”

Although they are in the midst of a reboot, Thomas said he and Dunlop were still disappointed in the way they’ve performed this year.

“Injuries haven’t helped us but that’s no excuse,” Thomas said.

“I think everyone in the league has stepped up and as much as we feel we’ve improved a lot, we haven’t improved enough.”

But both remain confident they’re on the right track.

“We knew we had to take a couple steps back to go a couple steps forward and at the moment, we’re in that sort of transition phase,” Dunlop said.

“So, we’re pretty keen to get our teeth stuck into the back end of the season.”

The president-coach duo both agreed that everything they do now is geared towards the 2022 season.

And both said they’ll certainly be looking to add some more talent to the list over the offseason.
“We’ve got a shopping list,” Thomas said.

“Certainly, locals are still the focus, but if we can’t find locals to fill specific roles, we’ll be looking at talent towards the south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula.”

Dunlop said the plan this year was to rejuvenate the local talent by getting juniors through and be getting players like Hayden Wallis and Michael Harris back to the club.

“We feel like we’ve done that quite well, but now if we want to make headway towards the top of the ladder, we need to get five or six more top end guys,” Dunlop said.

“We’ve dealt with our depth issue, so if we get some more top end talent in, we can really challenge.”
The depth issue at Dalyston has organically been tested, with injuries forcing the club to blood youngsters like Louis Armstrong and Fraser West.

Obviously, Dunlop would have preferred not to have his hand forced by injuries, but he said it could’ve been a lot worse if the club didn’t have Mitch Wheeler on board as a physio.

“He’s been a really big part of what we’re doing this year, and he’s been fantastic,” Dunlop said.
And he was also grateful for the support his coaching staff has provided so far.

Clay Tait and Nathan Walsh have been fantastic in their roles as playing assistant coaches, as has reserves coach John Armstrong.

And coaching director and senior assistant Craig McKenzie, commonly known as Fletch, is making a big difference.

“They’ve been a fantastic team (Dunlop and McKenzie), and we’re hoping to sing Fletch soon,” Thomas said.

Despite the challenges, Dunlop, who lives in Narre Warren, is loving every moment at the nest.

“I had a couple of years where I wasn’t heavily involved in footy so to get back down and be back into footy life has been exciting,” Dunlop said.

And another thing he’s loving is seeing the young talent coming through the seniors, especially when he once played with their dads.

“They can tell me stories about stuff that I did when I was playing, that I can’t remember.”

Also coaching players, he played with in his tenure at Dalyston has been a highlight.

“The support I’ve got from those guys has been excellent.”

Dunlop first arrived at the club from Boronia in 2006, and the 37-year-old considers himself a Dalyston “lifer” so he couldn’t be happier to be doing what he’s doing.

“It’s a genuine honour to be involved with the footy club, but to be senior coach and to be trusted to turn the ship around, I’m stoked.”

Dalyston will face a big test when they host Cora Lynn tomorrow, but the club will be hoping the new breed of Magpies are up for the challenge.