The Williamstown Seagulls enter the 2015 Victorian Football League season looking to snap a 12-year premiership drought and lift a cup for the tenth straight decade.
The Seagulls fell agonisingly short in 2014, dropping their Preliminary Final clash against the Box Hill Hawks by seven points. Here are five reasons the Seagulls can go all the way in 2015 (in no particular order).
Big game experience – A Preliminary Final in 2014 may not scream big game experience but winning the Foxtel Cup in 2011 and 2014 does. In their two Foxtel Cup campaigns the smallest margin of victory for the Seagulls was 19 points, with three of their six victories coming by over five goals (Swan Districts  37 Points, Aspley  45 points and West Perth [2014 Grand Final] 63 points).
You also need to go back to 2009 for the last time Williamstown failed to make a Preliminary Final. On that occasion they were knocked out in straight sets, falling to the Northern Bullants and Collingwood. No other team in the competition has appeared in every Preliminary Final in the same stretch.
Key recruits – One of the luxuries of being a stand-alone club in the VFL is the ability to recruit top class players. While Kane Lambert was lost to Richmond (Where he has subsequently picked up a shoulder injury), Seagulls fans should be excited by the addition of Taylor Hine and Sam Dunell, who have both spent time on AFL lists.
Dunell played twelve games in three seasons with St Kilda scoring one goal. Since his VFL debut with the Bendigo Bombers in 2011 he has played 49 games, scoring 50 goals. He appeared in 15 games for Sandringham last season with a strong return of 23 goals. It appears like Dunell will develop into a key forward role with the Seagulls, where he will be fully capable of a 30-40 goal season should he stay fit.
After 23 games split between the Gold Coast Suns and North Melbourne Kangaroos, Hine will play a key role for the Seagulls in 2015, varying between midfield and defensive duties. During his time with the Roos he was frequently used in a tagging role, a role which he will be sure to embrace should he be given it by Andy Collins. His 18 games for the Werribee Tigers in 2014 demonstrate his ability to play consistent football and back up his performances, something the side will be hoping to see repeated as they look to take the next step.
Andy Collins – The chips were stacked heavily against Collins in 2014 and he still managed to come out on top. In the Seagulls first year as a stand-alone outfit, and his first year as coach, he took the side to within a game of the Grand Final and eased the club to their second ever Foxtel Cup triumph. The impact he has had on the side is similar to that of Paul Roos at Melbourne, in that he has a structure in place which he will continue to develop as he enters his second year at the helm.
Home ground advantage – There’s something special about Burbank Oval. Whether it’s the location, the passion from the home fans or the wind belting off the water, it’s not a happy hunting ground for opposition clubs.
Since 2012 the Seagulls have a formidable 20-6 record at Burbank Oval. That’s a winning percentage of .769. The key to success at Burbank is knowing that the scoring end is the scoreboard end and that you need to keep possession rotating while you are kicking towards the Floyd Pavilion. All too often visiting sides are undone by pushing too far forward at the Floyd end, leaving the Seagulls with easy opportunities on the counter.
This was best highlighted in 2014 during the Seagulls clash against Collingwood where a combined 3.0 (18) was kicked to the Floyd end, with 21.23 (149) was kicked towards the scoreboard end on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon. If the Seagulls can continue to use their local knowledge to exploit the opposition then their winning form is certain to continue.
Defensive pressure – In a loop back to the impact of Andy Collins the Seagulls have shown themselves to be one of the best defensive sides in the competition.
The Collins mantra places great focus on pressuring the player with the ball and dominating the clearances, something which the Seagulls were able to do throughout the preseason. The home clash against Box Hill on Saturday was the toughest test of the preseason, and while the result wasn’t as desired there were positive signs. The tackling pressure was relentless and it was clear that Box Hill were rattled whenever they were required to clear the ball from inside the Williamstown forward 50.
The more time Collins has to work his philosophy into the game the tougher the Seagulls are going to be to score against. For a team who only conceded over 100 points twice in 2014 (101 against the Northern Blues in round one, 100 against Box Hill in the Preliminary Final) and averaged 99.09 points per game, that defensive pressure is a scary prospect for the rest of the competition.