2017 Division 1 Season Preview

Compiled by Will Hunter



Season 2017 is poised to be one of the most open, even and exciting in many years. Several high-profile recruits will no doubt lift the standard of the entire competition, but also ensures at least eight clubs are rated a realistic chance to play finals football.

At the top end of the ladder, Dingley are aiming to become the second team in SFNL history, and the first since Balwyn in the late 1990s to claim a premiership three-peat. However, expect East Malvern, Bentleigh, Mordialloc and Oakleigh District to provide some stiff competition. Last year's second division champions Port Colts have been the most dominant Division 2 team we have seen for many years, and with their spread and depth of talent cannot be discounted from premiership calculation.

With the Division 1 season set to launch in earnest this Saturday, let's take an in-depth look at each Division 1 team, their ins and outs and assess their chances of premiership success.



Coach: Paul Dimattina

2016 Finish: 2nd

Key Signings: Chris Johnson (Old Ivanhoe), Damien Stone (Hastings)

Departures: Paddy Nicholls (work commitments), James Robertson (Chelsea Heights)

This disappointment of last year’s grand final defeat unfortunately took some of the gloss off what was otherwise a brilliant 2016 campaign. Bentleigh showed remarkable improvement from previous seasons, and proved that they can match it with the best sides in the competition. Pleasingly, they have kept the majority of their list together – spearhead Paddy Nicholls the only big loss – and will rely on natural improvement from its young brigade in order to take the next step. Ex-Melbourne and Carlton defender Chris Johnson and former Frankston Dolphin Damien Stone will add much needed experience, while the return of Jackson Meredith from a broken leg will further bolster the midfield. Expect the Demons to be up around the mark again in 2017, with a maiden Division 1 premiership not out of the equation.

2017 Predicted Finish: 3rd

[caption id="attachment_14520" align="aligncenter" width="254"]Bentleigh young gun Jackson Meredith will make his return from a broken leg in 2017. Bentleigh young gun Jackson Meredith will make his return from a broken leg in 2017.[/caption]




Coach: Des Ryan

2016 Finish: 8th

Key Signings: Sean McLaren (Sandringham VFL/Beaumaris), Will McTaggart (Sandringham VFL/Old Haileyburians), Jarrod Matheson (Port Melbourne VFL), Richard Ryan (Beaumaris), Ange Soldatos (Balwyn), Daniel Harrison (Old Haileyburians)

Departures: Nil

Looking to build upon their positive finish to their 2016 campaign, the Rosellas have been massive players during the off-season. Addressing height as a deficiency within their list, Cheltenham have picked up several key players from VFL ranks, with former Sydney Swans rookie Sean McLaren the pick of the bunch. Their new boom recruits will significantly bolster their line-up and, combined with their talented crop of young players coming through the ranks, Cheltenham looms as one of the big improvers in 2017. Finals is clearly the goal, and one that is certainly achievable for this up-and-coming team this year, however, it may possibly take up to another season before we see the full potential of this side. Expect improved performances from the Rosellas as the season progresses, before they explode into premiership calculations in 2018 and beyond.

2017 Predicted Finish: 6th

[caption id="attachment_14521" align="aligncenter" width="265"]Cheltenham captain Jack Worrell Cheltenham captain Jack Worrell[/caption]




Coach: John Soldatos (new in 2017)

2016 Finish: 5th

Key Signings: Jak Martin (West Preston Lakeside)

Departures: Nick Scanlon, Stewart Scanlon, Dean Scanlon, Andrew Ray, Trent Papworth (Narre Warren), Daniel Kirby (Oakleigh District), Lee Boyle (Ferntree Gully Eagles)

A far from ideal off-season has been punctuated by several key departures from their 2016 line-up, including playing coach Nick Scanlon, 2016 Ellis Medal runner up Andrew Ray and ruckman Trent Papworth, who have all left for Narre Warren. As far as positives go, their new coach in John Soldatos has brought with him plenty of experience from EFL powerhouse Balwyn, and by all accounts will have his charges in tip-top condition come Round 1. However, it may not be enough to stave off relegation with a long season forecast at Meade Reserve.

2017 Predicted Finish: 10th

[caption id="attachment_14522" align="aligncenter" width="260"]Clays skipper Jayden Gilmour Clays skipper Jayden Gilmour[/caption]




Coach: Shane Morwood

2016 Finish: 1st

Key Signings: Lucas Walmsley, Jackson Peet (Frankston VFL) Troy MacKenzie (Bonbeach)

Departures: Tony Lavars, Leigh Wonnacott, Tom Wright, Stuart Cleeve, Steven Gaertner (retired)

The Dingoes’ incredible performance in last year’s Grand Final will not be forgotten for many years to come, and they are now eyeing a Hawthorn-esque premiership treble in 2017. But after being the team to beat for the last four years, we are beginning to wonder how long this success can be sustained. Several retirements, including former captains Tony Lavars and Lee Wonnacott, ruckman Stu Cleeve and full back Tom Wright, signifies a changing of the guard at Souter Oval, however, given the all-round quality of this young playing group, it is unfathomable that they will drop off the pace. Lucas Walmsley and Jackson Peet, who will share the Dingoes captaincy with Trav la Rocca this year, are brilliant additions, while big Troy MacKenzie has played top line basketball for the last few years and will slip into the ruck void left by Cleeve. Can the Dingoes create history with a hat-trick of premierships? It’s very likely, but with several clubs in pursuit of their title, don’t be surprised if their incredible reign comes to an end.

2017 Predicted Finish: 2nd

[caption id="attachment_14523" align="aligncenter" width="248"]Dingley - Peet Jackson Peet returns from a VFL stint to assume the Dingoes co-captaincy[/caption]



East Malvern

Coach: Ben Lockwood

2016 Finish: 4th

Key Signings: Simon Taylor, Ryan Mullett, Nathan Henley, Dean Millhouse (Rye), Luke Duffy (Drouin), Brad Neurath (St Kilda City), Nick Hammond (Bairnsdale)

Departures: Andrew Johnson (UTS Bats, AFL Sydney)

A season that promised so much last year fell apart, with injuries and form taking its toll. In many respects, their Semi Final exit signified an underachievement of sorts, with the club desperate to venture further into September this year. As such, the Panthers’ aggressive recruiting campaign has not only ensured this will transpire, but will see them enter the year as premiership favourites. Among the big-name signings are ex-Hawthorn ruckman Simon Taylor, EFL Division 1 League B&F winner Ryan Mullett and former Vermont premiership stars Dean Millhouse and Nathan Henley. The highly skilled quartet will greatly bolster the side's midfield, making East Malvern an incredibly hard team to beat. The club now has much more depth than in previous seasons, and after a terrific preseason are one of the leading contenders to steal Dingley’s crown.

2017 Predicted Finish: 1st

[caption id="attachment_14524" align="aligncenter" width="271"]Panthers co-captain Nathan Robinson is set for a big year Panthers co-captain Nathan Robinson is set for a big year[/caption]




Coach: Jason Chapple

2016 Finish: 6th

Key Signings: Danny Nicholls (Drouin), Aaron Kneebone, Tom Curry, Ben Humphrey, Tom McMahon (De La Salle Old Collegians)

Departures: Carey Neville, Jamie Neville-Young, James Keighley (St Bedes/Mentone Tigers), Rowan Andrews (Avoca), Luke Kirkland (Wakool)

After a fairytale Grand Final appearance in 2015, big things were expected of Mordialloc last year. However, the Bloods’ first season under coach Jason Chapple didn’t follow the script, with the club falling agonisingly short of finals. But with another solid preseason under their belts, a couple of players returning from injury, and a few handy new additions, including former Collingwood rover Danny Nicholls, a return to September action is not out of the equation. The list remains largely unchanged from last year; however, the departure of ruckman Rowan Andrews is a big loss, and leaves Mordi relatively light on in the big man department. Nevertheless, the Bloods possess one of the more powerful onball groups in the comp and have proven particularly difficult to score against, so expect them to be tough to beat in 2017.

2017 Predicted Finish: 4th

[caption id="attachment_14525" align="aligncenter" width="271"]Mordialloc vice captain Luke Barnhoorn is hoping his side can make a return to finals Mordialloc vice captain Luke Barnhoorn is hoping his side can make a return to finals[/caption]



Oakleigh District

Coach: Shayne Sheedy

2016 Finish: 3rd

Key Signings: Daniel Kirby (Clayton), James Black, David Beddgood (Banyule), Brad Virgona (Drouin), Anthony Bernardo, Dean Astolopolous (South Belgrave)

Departures: Liam Boschen (Cheltenham), Hadrien Prest (Kinglake), Mladen Josic, Nathan Brown (Stoney Creek), Khaled Kandakji (Cranbourne), Jake Mullen (Corowa-Rutherglen)

Like Mordialloc the previous year, Oakleigh District followed up its Division 2 premiership by giving the Division competition 1 a shake in 2016. Their Preliminary Final finish was a brilliant result, and the Oaks will be hoping to go one step further this year. Unfortunately, their list of outs from their senior team may diminish their chances of achieving that goal. Ruckman Brent Crawley, who works in Canberra, may no longer be making the trip down to play at Oakleigh as often as he once did, while they will also miss the spark provided by Khaled Kandakji up forward. Volatile ball winner Jake Mullen will be heading to the country for work commitments, but a return to Princes Highway prior to the mid-year transfer deadline is a possibility. The club is confident it’s additions can fill the gaps in its list, but it remains to be seen just what influence their recruits will have this season. Positively, the Oaks have a good crop of youngsters coming through from their Under 19s, several of which are capable of playing senior football in 2017, meaning finals is not beyond reach.

2017 Predicted Finish: 7th

[caption id="attachment_14526" align="aligncenter" width="234"]Oakleigh captain Brody Hodic is hoping to go one better in 2017 Oakleigh captain Brody Hodic is hoping to go one better in 2017[/caption]



Port Melbourne Colts

Coach: Jason Clarke (new in 2017)

2016 Finish: 1st (Division 2)

Key Signings: Lachlan Rennie, Max Mitchell-Russell (South Melbourne Districts), Shannon Franklin (Eltham), Tim Alvis (West Meadows), Nathan Doble (Birchip Watchem)

Departures: Brad Sutcliffe, Justin Taylor (Westmeadows), Robb Jewell (Timboon Demons)

Port Melbourne Colts produced one of the most remarkable seasons seen in the Southern Football Netball League, winning all 20 games to become premiers and champions in Division 2. And the last two Division 2 premiers have gone on to reach a preliminary final or higher in Division 1 the following year, which is a good omen for the Colts. Club legend and former premiership coach Jason Clarke returns to helm following the departure of coach Brad Julier, and they have netted a swag of recruits, some of which are ex-Colts, that will make an impact. The confined space at JL Murphy Reserve may also give it a sizable home ground advantage, which will no doubt help its cause. Ascending teams are always a bit of an unknown quantity, but there have been few Division 2 sides as dominant as Port, so the club will be well equipped for finals action.

2017 Predicted Finish: 5th

[caption id="attachment_14527" align="aligncenter" width="264"]Port Colts star Will Cardwell Port Colts star Will Cardwell[/caption]



St Kilda City

Coach: Richard Houston (new in 2017)

2016 Finish: 9th

Key Signings: Troy Kelm (Albion), Jaydon Stiles (Vermont), Malcolm Neiwand (Sandringham VFL/Collegians) Beau Runnalls (Phillip Island), Matt Runnalls (Cora Lynn), Thomas Motlop (Wanderers - NT), Nick Perry (Bentleigh), Ayang Nyanjok (De La Salle Old Collegians), Ray Lengyel, Josh Docherty, Ben Andonov (Noble Park)

Departures: Aaron Purvis, Cam Hansen (both South Belgrave) Simon Hislop, Daniel Ella, Thusan Shrimpton (all Albert Park), Ricky Thomson (Barooga), Michael Shaw (Chelsea Heights), Henry Sullivan (Collegians), Brad Neurath (East Malvern), Mykelti Lefau (East Burwood)

After several years spent in the doldrums, the Saints have lured former premiership coach Richard Houston back to the Peanut Farm in the hope of moving the club forward. Houston and his team have gone on a recruiting spree, and netted several big-name players that will bolster the side in several key areas. Albion’s Troy Kelm was one of the higher profile Division 1 recruits this year, and will be likely one of the competition’s preeminent ruckmen, while century goalkicker Beau Runnalls will give the Saints’ forward line extra potency. But their departure lounge is just as extensive, so in essence this is a brand new St Kilda City side on the park. As such, how the Saints go is anybody’s guess, but given it may take a while for the new players to gel together, few will have tipped them for premiership success in 2017.

2017 Predicted Finish: 8th

[caption id="attachment_14528" align="aligncenter" width="235"]Beau Runnalls is one of several handy inclusions for the Saints this year Beau Runnalls is one of several handy inclusions for the Saints this year[/caption]



St Pauls

Coach: Jason Heffernan (new in 2017)

2016 Finish: 7th

Key Signings: Matt Kreymborg (Sandringham VFL/Fish Creek), Alex Spencer (Port Melbourne VFL/Old Haileyburians, Steven Muller (Doncaster)

Departures: Liam Wilson (retired), Jarryd Allan (work commitments), Callum Catchcart (Sandringham VFL) Nick Shannon (Seaford), David Hutchison, Matthew Herbstreit (Kilcunda Bass), Justin Berry (Moorabbin)

St Pauls has been one of the most successful clubs over the last decade, making 10 consecutive finals appearances and claiming premierships in 2008 and 2013. But after a disappointing season last year that saw the club drop to 7th, the Dogs are clearly a side in transition. Dual Ellis Medallist Liam Wilson has retired, reigning B&F winner Cal Cathcart will try his hand in the VFL, and 2016 Vic Metro vice captain Jarryd Allan has moved to Vanuatu for work, so there will be plenty of top-line experience missing from their engine room. Former Dogs Matt Kreymborg and Alex Spencer return to the Kennel with VFL experience, and the club will also benefit from the senior games put into its young pups last year. New coach Jason Heffernan has an impressive footy CV and will be looking to lay a solid foundation for future success in his first season in charge, but in the interim expect a difficult road ahead.

2017 Predicted Finish: 9th

[caption id="attachment_14529" align="aligncenter" width="248"]Matt Kreymborg returns to the Kennel Matt Kreymborg returns to the Kennel[/caption]

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