Fresh from premiership success, you would think the party couldn't get any louder for Kiwi Hawthorn.
Then you remember it's their centenary year.
As the celebrations ramp up, we sat down with President Phil Brooker to reflect on what is shaping up as a memorable year for the famous club.
Rugby Victoria (RV): First things first...the premiership. How long did the party last after the big Grand Final win? Who lead the charge with the celebrations?
Phil Brooker (PB): The party was rather large. We had all the players, management and a large amount of our supporters back at The Riversdale, our sponsor pub, on the Saturday night and well into Sunday morning.
From there the players kicked on with the last couple finally taking a break on the Wednesday. So part one it lasted about 5 days, with a few spontaneous re-activations happening over the next couple of months!
The celebrations closed off at our awards night in November.
RV: Premierships can often be an occasion for senior players to retire on a high. How is the squad shaping up for '23 - have you lost many players? Any exciting new arrivals?
PB: We have actually had the opposite happen.
Some of the older players are looking to help shape the rebirth of the second grade team, with every player recommitting to the club in 2023. Clearly the impact of the Premiership, along with it being our centenary year and the new clubhouse, has been really positive in terms of attracting players for 2023.
After losing a lot of players over the two COVID impacted years, we are excited to see many of them return while we have also picked up a swag of new players who have heard what a fantastic environment the coaches and players have created at Kiwi Hawthorn and want to be a part of.
RV: It looks like preseason has been fun - tell us about some of the more unique sessions the coaching staff have included to keep engagement high?
PB: Preseason has been great so far. Numbers have been good and the boys have really shown up and put maximum effort it.
We have held a couple of beach sessions in Port Melbourne which the boys really enjoyed. In general training so far has been a nice blend of fitness work and lots of fun.
We are looking into some swimming sessions & boxing sessions to keep it interesting and with an expanded coaching group this year we have had a lot of fresh ideas that the boys are all finding refreshing.
RV: Centenary Year! What an occasion. What have you got lined up to celebrate the milestone?
PB: It’s a huge year for our club! We are really conscious about remembering our clubs history and making sure we do the club justice on and off the field.
We have lots of events planned throughout the year with the highlight to be our 100th year gala dinner on July 15th at Lincoln of Toorak. It will be a massive night with Wallabies, All Blacks, special guest speakers and plenty of time to catch up with old friends - team mates, players and officials from other clubs, referees and some rugby legends.
We currently have about 250 people confirmed to attend and we would love to see plenty of people from other Victorian clubs there on the night as well. So if you’d like to come along or find out more, please shoot us an email to email@example.com and we can help you organise a seat or a table.
RV: Some big changes on the home front...what can you tell us about the renovations going on and what stage are they at?
PB: The renovations are moving forward pretty quickly now, which is great to see.
The reinforcing went in just before Christmas and slabs have now been poured. The hope is still that the new clubrooms will be ready for the second half of the 2023 season, with an ideal result being to host pre-centenary celebration drinks with our opponents on that day in the clubrooms before kicking onto the Centenary dinner.
Either way, we can’t wait to host our opponents and entertain our supporters in the new clubrooms. It has been nice being able to play on one of Melbourne’s best playing surfaces, to know have a state of the art clubrooms to go along with it will be fantastic.
RV: Juniors look like they're going well - how big a focus has it been cementing that link between juniors and seniors and what are you doing to foster that relationship?
PB: This has been a big focus, especially coming into 2023. The juniors have done an amazing job over the past ten years or so, firstly getting the boys re-established and then pioneering the girl’s touch 7’s and the girls’ pathways to tackle programs.
The juniors continue to grow year on year and that has been down to the great coaches and volunteers who make the Kiwi Hawthorn juniors such a wonderful environment to be a part of. This year, we are looking to have the seniors work more closely with our juniors by attending training sessions and offering as much help and support as they need.
RV: What's your BIG BOLD prediction for season 2023?
PB: For a big, bold prediction, we will go with Kiwi Hawthorn having two senior teams play-off in grand finals.
Regardless of results though, 2023 will be memorable for us and, while not bold at all, we can guarantee we will have 60-70 players who have more fun than they’ve ever had at a rugby club before.