By Nick Creely
AFL OUTER EAST FOOTBALL
2019 SEASON PREVIEW – DIVISION 1
Ground: Belgrave Football Ground, Belgrave
President: Michael Kiker
Coach: Nathan Johns
Last premiership: 2017
Finished: 9th, 2 wins, 16 losses
Leading goalkicker: Nick Somervaille and Peter Gough (14)
Key ins: Aaron Johns (Edithvale-Aspendale) , Elliot Avis (Crib Point)
Key outs: Peter Gough (Olinda Ferny Creek), Chris Power (Officer), Robbie Matthews (Emerald)
What the club says: “I’ve gathered that we’re a step above the old Division 2, and a step below most in Division 1 and I want to change that, while playing a distinct brand of football – I know it will take time. We want an improvement on last year – ideally we want more wins than losses.” – Belgrave coach Nathan Johns
We say: Belgrave struggled with the step up in class in 2018, registering just a two-win season, but will benefit in the long run with the restructure of the competition and the ability to rebuild in the lower division. The departure of Peter Gough leaves a big hole to fill, but the Pies have brought in a couple of players ready to go.
The burning question: Have the Magpies improved their list enough to improve on their two-win record last year?
First game: vs Monbulk, 13 April, Belgrave Football Ground
Ground: AJ Robinson Reserve, Doveton
President: Aaron Henwood
Coach: Daniel Charles
Last premiership: 2005
Finished: Last, 0 wins, 16 losses
Leading goalkicker: Riley D’Arcy (11)
Key ins: Lachie Batten (Edithvale-Aspendale), Mitch Viney (Bayswater), Michael Sikora, Daniel Zajac, Luke Daidone, Saber Abdalla (Rowville), James Gascard, Josh Viney (Hampton), Mitch Pierce (Oakleigh District), Martin Nguyen (Forest Hill), Kobi George, Deakyn Smith (South East Juniors), Sean Kelleher (Emerald)
Key outs: Mitch Cotter (Noble Park), Russ Gabriel (Pines), Josh Bradley (Pakenham)
What the club says: “All the clubs are really professional, so we’re going into the unknown from our perspective with Belgrave, Mount Evelyn, and other clubs in the Yarra Valley, so it’s exciting. A lot of the discussions for the committee have been about the unknown. We’ve never played these clubs before, so it’s going to create new rivalries. We won’t know until at least Round 8 who the movers and shakers are – all clubs are buoyant about their recruits, but I reckon it’ll take at least six weeks for the dust to settle.” – Doveton director of football Martin Stillman.
We say: Have many clubs gone from a winless 2018 straight into premiership calculations? That’s the potential scenario for the resurgent Doveton, which is well and truly looking to bounce back from a horrid final season in the SEFNL. First and foremost it’s about regaining the respect within local footy in the region, but with an incredible list of ins and more depth to float through the senior and reserves sides, the Doves look like they will be a force in the newly-formed Division 1, giving them a huge chance to push hard for their first flag since 2005.
The burning question: Do the Doves have the firepower to regularly kick a winning score?
First game: vs Officer, 19 April, AJ Robinson Reserve
Ground: Chandler Recreation Reserve, Avonsleigh
President: Mark Pedder
Coach: Jamie Marshall
Last premiership: 2015
Finished: 8th, 5 wins, 13 losses
Leading goalkicker: Jake Pedder (36)
Key ins: Jayden Bubb (Frankston VFL), Mitch Evans (Basketball), Nick Merrick (Beaconsfield), Robbie Matthews (Belgrave)
Key outs: Matthew Dompiertro (Surrey Park), Michael Dompiertro, Brent Moloney (Officer), Lachlan Sheppard (Upwey-Tecoma), Jacob Castricum (Wantirna South), Sean Kelleher (Doveton), Aden Quirk, Jed O’Sullivan (Upper Ferntree Gully), Shaun Semmens (Doveton), Casey Thomsen (Nilma Darnum)
What the club says: “I think we will be competitive, but I don’t know where we will sit to be honest and that’s the most exciting thing about it – I would presume Officer and Doveton will be the teams to beat, along with Mount Evelyn and Monbulk.” – Emerald football operations manager John Rich
We say: The Bombers have lost a lot of quality, but crucially get the chance to rejuvenate with the new league and some handy new recruits, who are sure to have an instant impact on the senior side. The Bombers were largely competitive for the most part last season – particularly at home – so will fancy their chances of playing some teams at level pegging to them. Finals are certainly in the frame if all goes well. Look for Jayden Bubb to have a big impact for the Bombers this season.
The burning question: Will the new recruits gel in time?
First game: vs Pakenham, 13 April, Toomuc Reserve
Ground: Monbulk Football Ground
President: Mark Seamer and Grant Dennison
Coach: Andrew Williams
Last premiership: 2006
Finished: 7th, 9 wins, 9 losses
Leading goalkicker: Shane Williams (28)
Key ins: Glenn Strachan (South Croydon), Johnathon Hevern (Kilsyth), Shannon Brennan (Doveton)
Key outs: Chris Tibb (Norwood), Zak Calvert (Sunraysia), Nick McPherson (Beaconsfield)
What the club says: “We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience – I haven’t put any expectations on this season, but we’ve been improving all pre-season. I just hope we put our best foot forward.” – Monbulk coach Andrew Williams
We say: The Hawks could’ve very easily played finals last season if not for two shock losses to Warburton Millgrove, so the club is not far off. It’s been a handy off-season for the club, with former AFL player Andrew Williams jumping on board as senior coach, and with a few handy ins, as well as a great crop of youth coming through, the Hawks will fancy their chances of being one of the strongest sides in the competition.
The burning question: Are the Hawks too young?
First game: vs Belgrave, 13 April, Belgrave Football Ground
Ground: Mount Evelyn Football Ground
President: Graeme Northey
Coach: Mark Fisher
Last premiership: None
Finished: 6th, 9 wins, 9 losses
Leading goalkicker: Robert Hartfield (48)
Key ins: Max Kleverkamp (Mornington)
Key outs: Kane Jones (Forest Hill), Brendan Lord (Rosebud)
What the club says: “At the moment we’ve been focusing on our ball movement so that we’re more adaptable. Teams will see a distinct change in that – it’ll become our biggest area of change.” – Mount Evelyn coach Mark Fisher.
We say: What a massive opportunity 2019 presents for Mark Fisher’s group, with Mount Evelyn one side looking to carry on the momentum from last season and cause some serious damage this season. The Rovers have been very steady this off-season, with not a lot of change from a playing list perspective, so will fancy their chances of climbing into finals and really placing pressure on the south-east clubs.
The burning question: How well will the Rovers utilise their home ground advantage?
First game: vs Warburton Millgrove, 14 April, Mount Evelyn Football Ground
Ground: Toomuc Reserve, Pakenham
President: Travis Hamilton
Coach: Ash Green
Last premiership: 2009
Finished: 7th, 5 wins, 11 losses
Leading goalkicker: James Harrison (18)
Key ins: Josh Bradley (Doveton), Kane Tyrrell (Berwick), Dan Coinu, Jackson Bramich, Nathan Hopwood (Beaconsfield), Joel Sarlo (Dingley), Chase Blackwood (Cora Lynn)
Key outs: Stephen Morey (Bunyip), Steve O’Bryan (Spotswood)
What the club says: “We want to be competitive first and foremost, and respected with the way we play our footy – we want to stay in the contest more than last year. We’re a bigger town than the other teams we’ll be playing, so there will be a bit of pressure on us I would have thought. We’re under no illusions that we’ll play some great teams, but we’re a work in progress.” – Pakenham coach Ash Green
We say: There is enough quality on the Lions’ list to suggest that they will make some in-roads on their promising 2018 season, but a major dent in their experience is sure to hurt them, particularly in the short-term. Coach Ash Green did some excellent work in improving the defensive side of their game, and the Lions were actually one of the stingiest sides in the competition at stages last season, but lacked enough scoring power to ever threaten for a finals appearance. Pakenham will look to get plenty of games into its youngsters, and try and at least match its win/loss record from last season.
The burning question: Just how much will the losses of Stephen Morey and Steve O’Bryan hurt the Lions?
First game: vs Emerald, 13 April, Toomuc Reserve
Ground: Officer Recreation Reserve
President: Nick McLennan
Coach: Doug Koop
Last premiership: 2002
2018: 5th, 6 wins, 10 losses, 1 draw
Leading goalkicker: Matthew Clarke (21)
Key ins: Michael Dompietro, Brent Moloney (Emerald), Ben Kerrigan (Kooweerup), Dave Reilly (Ashwood), Chris Power, Billy Carlyle, Michael Ralph (Belgrave), Zac Peazold (Cora Lynn), James Cairns (Beaconsfield), Zach Rolph (St Johns)
Key outs: Ben Curtiss (Retired), Stephen Hawkins (Meeniyan Dumbalk United), Matt Laskey (Neerim Neerim South)
What the club says: “There has been a buzz around the club which has been building over the past few seasons off the back of improved performances under the direction of senior coach Doug Koop. Numbers on the track have been better that ever this preseason, and there will be a real fight for positions in our best 22 come Round 1. With the new AFL Outer East competition comes the prospect of competitive football, which clubs like ours have been screaming out for and we cannot wait to see how the year unfolds.” – Officer president Nick McLennan
We say: The Kangaroos are going to enter the season with some serious expectations, something that the club hasn’t dealt with for some period of time, but the list has added some further depth and will be one to certainly keep an eye on. Brent Moloney is a serious addition and gives the Kangaroos another layer of class, and with the likes of Tyler Clark, James Waldon, Sean Roach, skipper Matthew Clarke and Stephen Heppel all fit and firing, Doug Koop’s side will prove hard to topple. They must look to improve on their scoring, with the Kangaroos really struggling at times to kick enough goals to be a legitimate threat.
The burning question: How will the Kangaroos deal with the added expectation?
First game: vs Doveton, 19 April, AJ Robinson Reserve
Ground: Mac Sparke Oval, Warburton
President: Rod Barnard
Coach: Brendon Murphy
Last premiership: 2006
Finished: Last, 2 wins, 16 losses
Leading goalkicker: Andrew White (45)
Key ins: Jackson Lucas (Kilsyth), Grant Morris, Brenton Morris (Mooroolbark)
Key outs: Tyson McKenzie (Mooroopna), Grant Newing (Powelltown)
What the club says: “The vibe has been really good at training, and the numbers have been the best they’ve been in a long time. The players have set all our goals, behaviours and values, so I feel everything is tracking nicely.” – Warburton Millgrove coach Brendon Murphy.
We say: Warburton-Millgrove has gone back to its roots, and is looking to build a club culture first before really focusing on improving its wares on-field. It’s been a gruelling few seasons in Division 1 of AFL Yarra Ranges, and the club will be looking forward to the chance to take a step back and continue to rebuild the list, with the hope that a swift and sharp turnaround is not too far away. It could be a tough year, but look for the youngsters to show plenty of promise for the future.
The burning question: Can the Burras find a second and third avenue to goal?
First game: vs Mt Evelyn, 14 April, Mt Evelyn Football Ground
3. Mount Evelyn
7. Warburton Millgrove
**Information compiled on Belgrave, Emerald, Monbulk, Mount Evelyn and Warburton Millgrove has been heavily contributed to from AFL Outer East Media.