The Keysborough Cougars and RMIT Redbacks senior men stand the only two undefeated teams this 2021 Big V season. The question is, how?
his Big V season has been the most interrupted, stop-start year of the league we’ve ever seen. From weekly games to consecutive weeks off, it’s played with everyone’s emotions. Despite all the variables at hand, two have stayed consistent amongst the pack.
As of Round 14, Division One Men’s Keysborough Cougars and Division Two Men’s RMIT Redbacks don’t know what the word loss means. With 13 consecutive wins (or as consecutive as 2021 will allow), their dominating form and ferocious attitudes lock them in as favourites in their respective divisions.
These things don’t happen for any single reason. We got the scoop from Keysborough Coach, Nathan Vogt, and RMIT Assistant Coach, Tristian Angeles, on their recipe for success.
Vogt: “For us it all started last year with the season that never happened. We kept our team together and I feel that gave us a head start, not bringing in new guys that had to get to know how we operate as a club. Pre-season was key for us. Given everybody effectively had a year off, we knew we would have to work hard to get back into shape physically.
“We had ex-AFL player Shane Morwood take the team for a tough strength and conditioning program that saw a lot of our guys in the best shape they have ever been. Shane’s program also saw the group really bond and develop great chemistry as a team. We then capped off a solid pre-season with a great weekend away at the Ballarat tournament in March.”
Vogt: “The passion and energy this team consistently has is certainly a highlight. Everyone genuinely looks forward to practice and that flows into our games. We have been lucky enough to have a great inside presence with Jacob Lampkin teaming up with Ivan Platenik.
“Teams have focused on stopping us inside, but we hit more three’s than most of the league and have a number of guys shooting over 40% from beyond the arc! The great thing is we have had a variety of guys stepping up and having big games.”
Angeles: “Being a young program there is not a lot to lose but we set high goals very early in pre-season. We feel like we have yet to achieve anything substantial for our liking. The games we have played and won so far are only a part of the process to ultimately being successful come the season’s end.
“We are a team that have players who produce for the team. There is no standout player per say as each week we have a different leading scorer. Our focus is getting the stops on defence and executing on the offensive end looking for the greatest shot we can take. We preach in doing what you can to ensure the team is successful so highlighting one player wouldn’t do the team justice. Put simply we are a full squad deep.”
Vogt: “I think this league is a lot closer than people seem to think. It is truly a league where any team could beat anyone on any given night and several teams that could win the championship.
“In Round 6 we played Coburg - they played a terrific game and almost beat us. We had to hit some tough shots down the stretch to steal the game from them. That was pivotal for us as it was as part of a ‘triple header’, and we knew that if we could walk away with three wins from the round it would set our season up.”
Angeles: “It is still hard to say who the main competition is for Division 2. North-East have shown they can knock off anyone and Sherbrooke carry a well-built roster and were undermanned the times we faced off, so they could surprise come finals time. Mildura and Whittlesea are both very good at home and aren’t ones to take lightly in any capacity otherwise you’re in trouble.
“Wallan are a super talented squad being led by Sharif Black who is comfortably leading the Division in scoring so that’s a matchup nightmare going up against them. Finally, there is Anthony Kimble and the Altona Gators who have only dropped one game themselves. They’re a quick and big team that causes issues for their opponents and probably the favourite if I had to pick one considering we have yet to meet as well.”
Vogt: "Without a doubt it is our culture. This is a selfless group who don’t care for individual accolades and are focused on team success. Everybody plays for each other every night"
Angeles: “The key ingredient to our wins is the culture being built within the program as well as the team culture. We are all about buying into what the team needs to be successful. Having only the two senior teams in our program we promote togetherness and support which has created quite the Redbacks family. The support our men’s and women’s team have for each other is definitely second to none! No one individual is above the team and each and every member have their sacrifices to ensure the team thrives. We all do our part and have each other’s backs, and this allows each session from trainings to game day to be high intensity and to our standard.
“Our team motto is all about making small deposits. Coach Olly preaches this as something for our team members to be accountable for themselves to do their part for the team. No one member on the team, our program, the behind-the-scenes personnel and our women’s team is greater than the person next to them. Being a Redback is being a part of a family with a great culture where the teams itself are the priority.”
Vogt: “I feel our best is yet to come. After having several injuries in the first half of the year, we are yet to have a game with our full team in uniform. The team seems to be committed to getting better every week and it’s great to have a whole group putting in the hours outside of our team practices.”
Angeles: “We look at our win streak as something that can end on any given day. Each team has provided issues for us, we just manage to adjust accordingly and pull it off, but it is far from easy.”