Entering the unknown

After one of the great grand final performances, Berwick star Travis Tuck could be in for a monster year. 185297 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely




Nickname: Eagles

Ground: Holm Park

President: Troy Robinson

Coach: Leigh McQuillen

Last premiership: 2014


Finished: 4th – 10 wins, 8 losses

Leading goalkicker: Nathan Langley (36)

Key ins: Jack Harmes (Devon Meadows), Boadie Motton (Leongatha), Brendan Whitecross (Hawthorn AFL), Jack Griffiths, Bailey Howarth (Narre Warren)

Key outs: Bailey Morrish (Rowville), Jackson Bramich (Pakenham), Peter Alier (Blackburn), Nathan Langley (Cora Lynn), Adam Marchetti (Glen Waverley Hawks), Mitch Riordan (Noble Park)

What the club says: “We’re going to be a lot more attacking. We had to make adjustments to the areas of the ground we felt we turned the ball over the most. We bypass these now and become very predictable to our team mates. Everyone knows where the balls going to end up while we have it from all parts of the ground so numbers and work-rate become vital.” – Beaconsfield coach Leigh McQuillen

We say: The Eagles will be a side certainly bullish about what they can achieve in 2019 after a strong pre-season. They’ve lost some firepower in attack, and still need to figure out the best mix in the attacking half, but have a solid midfield and a fit and firing Scott Meyer, who is expected to bounce back from an injury ravaged season with a big year. Another pre-season where the youngsters have learnt the Beacy brand and start to really place pressure on the senior group will help them push towards a finals spot, and from there, who knows.

The burning question: Can the Eagles’ youth and experience gel?

Leigh McQuillen’s Beaconsfield will be a tough task for any opposition after a strong pre-season. 184745

First game: vs Cranbourne, 13 April, Casey Fields

Prediction: 4th



Nickname: The Wickers

Ground: Edwin Flack Reserve

President: Glenn Gambetta

Coach: Rhys Nisbet

Last premiership: 2018


Finished: Premiers in SEFNL, 16 wins, 3 losses

Leading goalkicker: Harry Money (56)

Key ins: Michael Johnson (returning)

Key outs: Brody Connelly (South Belgrave), Michael Riseley (Woori Yallock)

We say: Berwick’s stunning run of success is really no surprise when looking at their glittering list of stars and up and comers. On every line on the field, the Wickers are blessed with different types of players, and they all gel perfectly. Rhys Nisbet jumps back into the main role after a few years away, relinquishing the role from two-time premiership coach Stewart Kemperman, and it will be a seamless transition for a club that will be desperately searching for a three peat, and bragging rights in the opening season of the competition. There is very little change from the 2018 SEFNL premiers, who will be up for the challenge against some new and existing rivals. After a sublime return season to the Wickers, look for Travis Tuck to build on his mighty grand final performance, and be in for a monstrous season in the midfield. Harry Money was another who came on in leaps and bounds last season to be arguably the most dynamic forward in the competition, and with some different types of grounds of conditions, is another who will adapt superbly.

The burning question: Can anyone hunt the mighty Wickers down?

First game: defeated Narre Warren, 6 April, Edwin Flack Reserve

Prediction: 1st



Nickname: Eagles

Ground: Frenken Homes Oval, Cranbourne

President: Gerry Kelly

Coach: Steve O’Brien

Last premiership: 2016


Finished: 3rd, 12 wins, 7 losses

Leading goalkicker: Marc Holt (56)

Key ins: Nil.

Key outs: Jake Carosella, Chris Ramac, Michael Richardson, Nick Russo (Oakleigh District), Ty Ellison (Emerald), Nathan Gardiner, Troy Tharle (Cora Lynn), Marc Holt, Brandon Wapshott, Ryan Davey (Karingal), Zak Roscoe (Noble Park)

What the club says: “I’m sure there’s chatter about Cranbourne going around everywhere, maybe some people will be surprised when we actually get the season started. The boys have been training really well, we’re ready to go. There’s going to be a lot of quality players here this year – Shaun Marusic, Ryan Jones, a young bloke by the name of Cam Angus has been training the house down.” – Cranbourne president Gerry Kelly

We say: It’s been an interesting off-season to say the least, with the Eagles losing a large chunk of youth and experience to its list. The departures of Marc Holt and Nathan Gardiner in particular – who combined for 89 goals in 2018 – will significantly impact on the Eagles’ ability to kick a winning score, while the mobility of Troy Tharle and the excellent kicking skills from the back half from Brandon Wapshott will be sorely missed. But the Eagles, who won the flag in the reserves, will be looking for a big lift in their depth players to help take the club forward. It’s a proud club, Cranbourne, with plenty of quality players still around, so the Eagles will always pose as a dangerous task for opposition clubs.

The burning question: Where will the goals come from in 2019?

Cranbourne have been one of the most talked about clubs this off-season, but are a raring to go in 2019. 185007

First game: vs Beaconsfield, 13 April, Casey Fields

Prediction: 7th



Nickname: Bloods

Ground: Healesville Football Ground

President: Greg Hay

Coach: Simon Gordon and Luke Barclay

Last premiership: 2016


Finished: 5th – 12 wins, 9 losses

Leading goalkicker: Rodney Woodford (56)

Key ins: Connor Ballingall (Boort)

Key outs: Nelson Aldridge (Warburton Millgrove), Kobe Brown (Montrose)

What the club says: “2019 is uncharted territory, by Round 9 we’ll know where we are at, I know that we, personally, will be heading into the season with a sense of trepidation.” – Healesville president Greg Hay

We say: At its best, Healesville is a dangerous prospect, but the side could be set to struggle in the top division of AFL Outer East, having seemingly failed to land a big fish to take the club forward, while it appears most other lists in Premier have, in one way or another, improved significantly. Last season saw a lack of depth stand out in the pivotal moments, and with the standard of the competition dramatically improving, the Bloods could be in for a tough year.

The burning question: Can the Bloods keep their top talent on the park all year?

First game: vs Upwey Tecoma, 13 April, Healesville Football Ground

Prediction: 9th



Nickname: Magpies

Ground: Kalora Park, Narre Warren North

President: Stuart Stephenson

Coach: Matt Shinners

Last premiership: 2013


Finished: Runners-up, 15 wins, 4 losses

Leading goalkicker: Nick Scanlon (40)

Key ins: Nil.

Key outs: Nick Scanlon, Col McNamara, Trent Shinners (retired), Mitch Cowan, Hayden Stagg (Ellinbank)

What the club says: “I’m pretty happy with our list – we’re not as experienced as we were last year, but in saying that, we’ll give our young kids an opportunity which will develop them. You can’t beat experience, but the next thing is looking for kids to step up and grab their opportunity, so enthusiasm is a big thing. The more games we can get into them, the more experienced they get.” – Narre Warren coach Matt Shinners

We say: A huge chunk of experience and star-power does walk out the door, which automatically makes the Magpies a younger, more unpredictable unit, but there’s still mountains of class and depth at Shinners’ disposal which should see them right up there in the premiership race. The forward structure and ruck division will have a new look to it following the departures of Nick Scanlon and Col McNamara, but expect some of the developing youngsters to take another step and really hold onto a spot in the senior side. Shinners’ group will be looking for a serious injection of legspeed in their forward half, as it was their achilles heel in the crunch moments of last year’s finals series. The Magpies will also not have the services of Casey Demon-listed Cory Machaya, who starred when at local level last year, due to a season-ending knee injury, while a number of others are also either VFL or NAB League listed.

The burning question: Will there be some short-term pain, for long-term gain?

Despite some key losses, Narre Warren will be right up there. 185297

First game: lost to Berwick, 6 April, Edwin Flack Reserve

Prediction: 2nd



Nickname: The Bloods

Ground: Olinda Ferny Creek Football Ground

President: Ian Taylor

Coach: Brendan Donovan

Last premiership: 2017


Finished: 2nd, 13 wins, 7 losses

Leading goalkicker: James Charge (45)

Key ins: Peter Gough (Belgrave), Andrew Rodgers, Daniel Toma (Surrey Park)

Key outs: Brad Schubert, Owen Raszkiewicz (Eley Park Sharks), Dylan Troutman (Queensland)

What the club says: “We are still definitely in the premiership window. Our list can compete at the top level – the style of footy that will be bought in will really suit our best players, we’re going to have a crack, we’ve recruited hard, we’ve changed our game style – we’ll be ready.” – Olinda Ferny Creek coach Brendan Donovan

We say: The Bloods will be one side to keep an eye on in 2019, and should be a team that will compete hard with some of the new south-east clubs. They’ve topped up their list nicely, while coach Brendan Donovan seems to be preparing well for the likely changes this season, such as opposition, as well as ground dimensions, which could take some getting used to from both the south-east and Yarra Valley clubs. They should adapt well and challenge for a finals spot, such is the strong culture of the club.

The burning question: How much longer can Hottes and Charge carry on for?

First game: vs Narre Warren, 13 April, Olinda Ferny Creek Football Ground

Prediction: 6th



Nickname: Tigers

Ground: Upwey Tecoma Football Ground

President: Craig Waters

Coach: David Bell

Last premiership: 2011


Finished: 4th, 14 wins, 7 losses

Leading goalkicker: Daniel Waters (84)

Key ins: Lachlan Sheppard (Emerald), Travis Pears (Rowville), Pierce Rooney (South Croydon), Matthew Nicholson (St Johns), Sam Waters, Tom Robinson (returning)

Key outs: Blake Bantoft (Glen Waverley Hawks), Liam Burke (Queensland)

What the club says: “We know the other clubs are strong and well set up so we are working that extra bit harder- we’ve had a big changeover in personnel, but all the boys that have come across have a connection to the club in one way or another so they won’t disrupt the club in any way.” – Upwey Tecoma coach David Bell

We say: The Tigers are certainly on the right path, and are building their list nicely with some good recruits off the back of an excellent 2018, where they finished fourth after the home and away season. Whether they can find enough support for perennial sharpshooter Daniel Waters remains a question yet to be answered, but they will just be looking to show competitiveness as they look to build for the long term. Finals would be a terrific result for the club considering the strength of the south-east clubs coming in, but it may be another 12 months away.

The burning question: Can someone consistently support Daniel Waters up forward?

First game: vs Healesville, 13 April, Healesville Football Ground

Prediction : 8th



Nickname: Bulldogs

Ground: Wandin Football Ground

President: Mick Fowkes

Coach: Nick Adam

Last premiership: 2018


Finished: Premiers in AFL Yarra Ranges, 16 wins, 5 losses

Leading goalkicker: Justin Van Unen (96)

Key ins: Alex O’Reilly (Stanhope), Michael Fowkes, Daniel Gorringe (Park Orchards), Luke McPhee (Coldstream)

Key outs: Brad Harvey (Barwon Heads), Robbie Ross (Vermont)

What the club says: “In the past talented kids have had to leave the club to get test themselves at a higher level. They wont have to do this anymore – we can offer a really good level of football and offer it every week now” – Wandin coach Nick Adam

We say: Out of all the Yarra Ranges clubs, the reigning premiers seem the most primed to have a genuine crack at a premiership. The Dogs have appeared to replace the likes of Brad Harvey and Robbie Ross, and have added Michael Fowkes back into the mix, which will help them play a destructive style of football that will trouble most sides. Alex O’Reilly also comes into the club from Stanhope with some big expectations. A massive clash against Berwick to open their season is set to be an absolute beauty, and the first of many tests set to come for Nick Adam’s group.

The burning question: Just how good is Alex O’Reilly?

First game: vs Berwick, 14 April, Wandin Football Ground

Prediction: 3rd



Nickname: Tigers

Ground: Woori Yallock Football Ground

President: Rob Thompson

Coach: Bryan Cole

Last premiership: 2014


Finished: 1st, 15 wins, 6 losses

Leading goalkicker: Jake Matthews (45)

Key ins: Michael Riseley (Berwick)

Key outs: Barry McDonald (Powelltown), Ryley Monkhorst (Balwyn)

What the club says: “It’ll be a bit of a challenge for our fellas. They (the south-east sides) might have a little too much depth for us initially but in saying that our young fellas are suited to the big, wide grounds so we might find some love there.” – Woori Yallock president Rob Thompson

We say: If one thing is certain about Woori, it’ll be in it for the fight and really fancy its chances of taking it right up to every side in the competition. Getting some key players back from injury is really important for the club in what it’s trying to build. While the Tigers will be one of the strongest Yarra Valley clubs, they may struggle to match the likes of Berwick, Narre Warren and Wandin. But Woori will enter the season as a potential dark horse which, on its day, can inflict some serious damage.

The burning question: Will Woori’s depth be up to the challenge?

First game: vs Wandin, 27 April, Wandin Football Ground

Prediction: 5th


Predicted Ladder

1. Berwick

2. Narre Warren

3. Wandin

4. Beaconsfield

5. Woori Yallock

6. Olinda Ferny Creek

7. Cranbourne

8. Upwey Tecoma

9. Healesville

**Information compiled on Healesville, Olinda Ferny Creek, Upwey Tecoma, Wandin and Woori Yallock has been heavily contributed to from AFL Outer East Media.

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