By Andrew Paloczi
HAMPTON PARK vs SPRINGVALE DISTRICTS
Robert Booth Reserve, Hampton Park - 2:15pm
All eyes in the SFNL community turn to Robert Booth Reserve where SFNL new arrival Hampton Park hosts Springvale Districts on Good Friday.
Hampton Park is known as the Redbacks and the side proudly displays this menacing arachnid on its jumpers.
However, in recent seasons the implied bite has been lacking and the proud club has endured some humbling losses in the SEFNL.
Redbacks’ senior coach Jason Chapple believes a shift to the SFNL’s divisional footy will help return the club to brighter onfield fortunes.
He is far from alone in that view, with Hampton Park widely tipped as a certainty to play finals and as a strong chance to contest the grand final.
Springvale Districts is well established in our league, but the Demons find themselves in unaccustomed territory in Division 3 after relegation.
Senior coach Kris Thompson admits few at the club are familiar with footy at this level.
He has brought in the expertise of former Lyndale senior coach Brad Bruni to help address this knowledge gap.
Bruni will provide analysis of the Demons’ opponents.
Expect Springvale Districts to adapt quickly and to pose a serious threat to Hampton Park, both in this Good Friday contest and in the race for the flag.
Thompson explains how the Demons retained all senior players from last year despite the club’s drop in division.
“I guess it’s the culture we started to build, probably last year. We’re a really tight group. We saw an opportunity for all of us to stick together and hopefully in the next couple of years have some success together.”
The commitment of senior players to re-sign before the end of last year made the coach’s decision to stay on an easy one.
A list that was already highly competitive in Division 2 has been greatly enhanced through some imposing recruiting.
Attention has fallen on recruits such as George Angelopoulos and Sam Raru who are sure to bolster the Demons’ midfield.
However, don’t expect Hampton Park’s players to be overwhelmed in the centre.
They are under the expert guidance of Michael Henry, previously vice captain of Doveton Doves.
Whilst coach Chapple is largely unwilling to rank his recruits prior to the season, Henry receives a glowing appraisal from him.
“Well he is an assistant coach and he’s a sensational player at a higher level. So you’d expect him to play really well. He’ll run the midfield.
“He’s the one who’s going to be in there. So it’s no use me telling them how to play through the midfield if I’m not out there with them.”
Henry will have a say in selection for the Redbacks and is considered by Chapple to be a long-term prospect to take on the senior coaching role.
But rest assured, Chapple intends to bring back the Redbacks’ venom and turn them into a powerful force whilst he is in charge.
His aggressive recruiting campaign over the offseason landed some big fish in addition to Henry, improving the club’s depth across a range of positions.
Jackson Fry is a prominent addition after excelling at Chelsea Heights, where he was unfortunate to miss the club’s 2017 premiership due to injury.
There he established himself as a dashing defender in the senior side, after being a prolific forward in his Under 19 days.
Springvale Districts’ improved stocks are not limited to the midfield either.
Key position player Jake Beckwith was another big acquisition, after switching from Tyabb.
Another arrival is key defender Nathan Brown who most recently turned out for Stony Creek, but who has previously spent time at Noble Park and Oakleigh District.
It’s time to turn our attention to the Good Friday blockbuster.
Hampton Park has previously played Good Friday footy in the SEFNL, where it has faced Doveton Doves.
The Redbacks were keen to continue featuring on that day and Springvale Districts was happy to oblige.
“We really want to be involved. It will be a great spectacle for the League,” Demons’ coach Thompson says.
The clubs agreed to bring forward their clash, initially set for Round 13.
The SFNL radio team will be there to describe every moment of the action and a large crowd is anticipated.
It should be a ripper of a match, with Springvale Districts starting as the favourite.