By Andrew Paloczi
Mount Waverley has high expectations for the 2016 footy season according to the club’s vice president and communications manager, Jason Bird.
He notes the return of Nick Smith to the senior coaching position he previously held with the Mountain Lions in 2013. Back then, Smith took the side to an Elimination Final victory, before a narrow Semi Final defeat ended Mt Waverley’s season.
Unfortunately, Smith was unable to build on this positive start when work commitments forced him to relinquish his position as coach.
Smith showed his enthusiasm for the task ahead as he returns to the club, making it clear on the SFNL website the passion he has for coaching and for the Mountain Lions.
“I’m really excited to be back at Mount and have a sense of unfinished business with this great group of lads and hopefully with the talent on offer and my coaching and footy experience we can push this club towards a senior premiership.”
That coaching and footy experience that Smith refers to is impressive. He played for Coburg in the VFL, also pulling on the boots in the EDFL, VAFA, and the GDFL where he featured in three premierships for Werribee Centrals.
Smith was a senior assistant coach at Port Melbourne in the VFL, and has also worked as a development coach at the Western Jets in the TAC Cup, so he will be equally comfortable providing guidance to young Mountain Lions as he will be managing the veterans on the list.
There will be plenty of on-field leadership at Mount Waverley in 2016 with a couple of experienced players named as co-captains. Last season’s captain, Rich Mathers is joined in the role by Jarrod Wilkin who has handed back the responsibility of the senior coaching role to Smith.
Wilkin’s toughness and ability to lift his team with inspirational play attracted the attention of SFNL Media Officer, Will Hunter who recently named Wilkin as a backman in his Fantasy team.
Hunter praised Wilkin’s “versatility and aerobic capacity”, justifiably describing him as one of the competition’s best players. Wilkin has taken out four Division 3 league Best & fairest awards.
Another who can provide plenty of inspiration is Luke Galle who was a prolific goal kicker in 2015 with 68 majors from his 20 games. And he does not always play in the forward line.
Galle also caught the eye of Hunter, who selected him in his Fantasy team forward line. Hunter noted Galle’s overhead marking ability and the fact that he is tough to beat in a one-on-one situation. His accurate kicking for goal was also praised.
But Mount Waverley’s vice president, Bird highlights that onfield leadership runs very deep at the club, with Reserves coach Shane Costantino and Lachie Rose also helping the senior team adhere to its structures.
Off the field, Geoff Gallagher and Graeme Kinder will be assistants for Smith. They are both life members and revered former players at the club.
Bird enthused about the pre-season saying that there have been “very healthy numbers on the track”. He said that the pre-season focus has been on “structures, hard running and quality disposal”.
There is every chance that the Mountain Lions will be in a position to break their premiership drought come September with a strong and well-led list.
The journey starts on 9 April when the Mountain Lions host Carrum Patterson Lakes in what should be a tough and exciting battle at Mayfield Park.
Ashwood impressed towards the finish of the 2015 season, not just making it into the five, but dispatching Carrum Patterson Lakes in the Elimination Final before bowing out in a competitive showing against Moorabbin the next week.
This was achieved despite the absence of star performer Paul Wineberg due to injury.
In 2016, Mick Rossborough is still at the helm as senior coach and has received a major boost with Wineberg restored to fitness. Rossborough says skipper Wineberg will be ready to go in round 1.
As well as his onfield leadership and ability to get the best out of other Magpie players, Wineberg has the ability to mark strongly and booted 44 goals in his 18 games last season.
The skipper will have the assistance of leadership group Ricky O’Brien, Chris Meyers and the newly arrived Dale Carroll, who has come from the EFL.
One player who provides plenty of dash through the midfield is Jake Chapman who is also a sharp shot for goal. He kicked 20 majors in 12 games last season, including four in the Elimination Final, which saw him named ‘Player of the Day’ by the SFNL radio team.
Chapman also received the honor of being one of the few players in the division to feature in the fantasy team of SFNL Media Officer, Will Hunter. He describes the Magpie as “a line-breaker who uses his blistering pace to find acres of space”.
On a less positive note for Ashwood, a significant departure is that of Jeremy Nelson who featured in every senior match for the Magpies last season and contributed 26 goals for the year, including three in the Elimination Final win. He is heading to the EFL.
Drew Connick and Luke Maxfield have also left after struggling for senior opportunities at Ashwood and will join new Division 3 club Lyndhurst.
Rossborough mentioned that up to eight new senior players will call Essex Heights Reserve home in 2016.
Mason Morgan has ventured to the Magpies’ nest via the EFL and Abachez Matthias has arrived from the impressively named Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League.
Another Rossborough will feature at Ashwood this season, with Mitchell making a move from Endeavour Hills.
He won’t have to wait long to renew acquaintances with past teammates as Ashwood hosts Endeavour Hills in Round 1 on 9 April at Essex Heights Reserve.
Glenn Jose took on the senior coaching job at Dandenong in 2015 and it proved a challenging initiation. The side managed just a couple of wins for the season, with these coming against fellow strugglers Southern Dragons and Hallam.
Jose joined the club with over 300 senior games as a player, and with senior coaching experience behind him. He coached both Nyora and Gembrook.
But he admits that his first year at the Redlegs was hard after losing six senior players.
It was apparent watching Dandenong last year that the side was trying hard, but it suffered a number of heavy defeats.
Jose notes that seven new blokes have arrived at Dandenong since last season with senior experience at other clubs.
A few of the new arrivals at the club are Mitchell Clarke, Adam Fiander, Nicholas Long all from the SEFNL, and Jack Ricardo from the EFL.
Unfortunately for the Redlegs, Jake Ward has departed to help establish new Division 3 senior team Lyndhurst. His leadership and willingness to contest for the ball is sure to be missed.
Dandenong has retained Regan Hall as captain, helping to provide some continuity, and recognising that the playing group views him as a great leader, both on and off the field. They voted to retain him as skipper.
The Halls have strong ties to the club with Regan’s wife Mandi coaching and captaining the Redlegs to victory in last season’s Netball Division 6 Grand Final.
As for the footy though, Jose has been happy with the numbers of players at training from the start of the pre-season. He says the average age of his list is about 25 years.
Jose expects improvement from the Redlegs this season.
“For 2016 I want us to be a consistent unit from game 1 till our season finishes.”
The side will get an immediate chance to test itself against a 2015 finalist when it visits Widdop Crescent to play Moorabbin on April 9.
There were reasons for excitement at Sandown last season. The club opened its new pavilion at Edinburgh Reserve and Brendan Fevola helped celebrate the occasion when he pulled on a Cobras’ jumper and led the team to victory, despite a crook back.
Unfortunately for Sandown, it was unable to build on a 2014 season in which it played a couple of finals, tumbling to ninth on the ladder last year. There were legitimate reasons with some good players having transferred out, and injuries also playing a part.
Second year coach, Rick Bean will be determined to arrest this slide.
He will have to overcome the departure of Anthony La Rocca who caught the eye of Division 1 premier, Dingley.
Another significant loss is Luke Newton who has headed to the Peninsula Football Netball League. He topped the Cobras’ 2015 goal-kicking list with 24 majors. He spent just a season at the club, but took out last year’s best and fairest there.
As for new arrivals for the Cobras, Dane and Nick Maizey have made the move from Division 2 club Highett. Leader journalist, Daryl Pitman expects Dane to be a key-position player, and describes young arrival Steve Mylonakis as “a clever rover/forward”.
Another arrival to receive mention is midfielder Chris Clayton, who previously played for Heatherton in Division 2.
Sandown’s captain Jake D’Atri will be assisted by vice captains Steve Ritchie and Rick Gow.
The Cobras open their season with a tough away game against the Doveton Eagles at Power Reserve on 9 April.