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DIVISION 1 – Round 1 Preview
With Good Will Hunter
DINGLEY vs MORDIALLOC (Souter Oval)
The reigning premiers will unfurl their premiership flag before the legion of Dingoes faithful in their first match at home in 2016.
And they will do so against the team they vanquished for the 2015 title – Mordialloc.
This Grand Final replay is another eagerly anticipated fixture, with Mordialloc looking to exorcise its demons and atone for its poor showing in last year’s decider.
From a personnel perspective, the Bloods have kept the majority of their side together for another season, however, the addition of Jason Chapple as coach may bring about some minor tweaks to their game style. This is the biggest change the club has undergone in recent years, so it may take a few rounds for the team to adjust.
Dingley enjoyed the perfect start to their title defence, and against the Doggies last week they looked as impressive as ever. Having now blown out the cobwebs, Dingley should be firing on all cylinders and if Sunday was any indication, they will be too strong here for the Bloods.
EAST BRIGHTON vs EAST MALVERN (Dunlop Reserve)
East Brighton’s reign as a competition pace-setter is set to end after a mass exodus of top-line talent at the end of last season. Few players from last year’s Prelim Final team remain at the club, and their predicament draws parallels with Chelsea Heights in 2015.
Compounding their tumultuous off-season has been the loss of their home venue, Hurlingham Park, while the pavilion undergoes a multimillion dollar redevelopment. As a result, the Vampires will ‘host’ the Panthers at Dunlop Reserve on Saturday.
East Malvern have recruited several players over the summer months that will not only off-set their losses, but ultimately boost the depth of the entire group. Additionally, they will benefit from the return of key playmaker Tremaine Tohiariki, who miss the vast majority of last season through injury.
With Ben Lockwood now at the helm, and with a great list at his disposal, the Panthers are well-placed to improve upon their Semi Final exit last year. The first step in this journey will be a comprehensive victory over the team that knocked them off in last year’s Qualifying Final.
BENTLEIGH vs ST PAULS (Bentleigh Reserve)
Many, including this columnist, have tipped Bentleigh to be one of the big improvers in 2016 after their impressing recruiting raid. Addressing height as a weakness, the additions of ruckman Andrew Walsh and forward Pat Nicholls in particular will greatly bolster the side’s overall structure.
The Dogs meanwhile are licking their wounds after a bruising encounter with the reigning premiers last week, and the six-day turn around certainly won’t help.
The losses of Wilson and Berry are a massive blow for St Pauls given their experience, leadership and sublime skill, particularly given the side’s youth. Bentleigh should capitalise on their absences and claim bragging rights in this local derby.
OAKLEIGH DISTRICT vs CHELTENHAM (Princes Highway Reserve)
Oakleigh District were the talk of the town given their drought-breaking flag win last year and, like Dingley, will have the opportunity this week to showcase their prize to the long-suffering black and white army.
Positively, the premiership side will remain together in 2016, save for the retirements of Mary Gurry and Grant Pitts, while Oaks champion Paul Fermanis also returns to the club.
The Rosellas meanwhile are coming off a disappointing 2015 season which saw the club cruelled by injury and slump to 8th on the ladder.
A new coach and a few handy recruits has seen optimism restored at Jack Barker Oval, but how will Cheltenham handle the Division 1 newcomers? Every indication is that the Oaks are up to the standard, like Mordialloc before them, and should announce their arrival in the top grade with victory over the Rosellas.
CLAYTON vs ST KILDA CITY (Meade Reserve)
This will be an interesting clash between two sides desperate to improve on 2015 seasons that promised more than they delivered.
Clayton, although finishing sixth on the ladder last year, were still three wins (and nearly 50%) off a finals berth, which suggests they have some work to do if they are to challenge the competition’s big guns.
St Kilda City, on the other hand, struggled for reasons many and varied. But the winds of change have seen a new coach (Robert Johns), a new president (Nick Porter), a new captain (Ricky Thomson) and a new leadership group appointed to lead the club into a new era.
With such a drastic overhaul at the Peanut Farm, how they perform in 2016 is anybody’s guess. The Clays are a talented bunch, and would likely view anything less than a finals appearance as wasted season. But if they are going to finish in the top five come Round 18, winning this game is a non-negotiable, so expect them to get the job done at home.
DIVISION 2 – Round 2 Preview
With Jason Barbin
Round two kicks off on Saturday and six sides will be looking for their first wins of the season when they take to the field for the opening bounce.
CHELSEA HEIGHTS vs BLACK ROCK (Beazley Reserve)
The Heighters play their first game at home this season and will be looking to bounce back against the newly promoted Black Rock. Both sides would’ve been disappointed no to start the season with a win but they get a chance here. The Jets impressed with their performance against Hampton last week while the Heighters were a little disappointing. Regardless the boys from Beazley Reserve should be too strong this week.
Chelsea Heights by 23 points
SKYE vs PORT MELBOURNE COLTS (Carrum Downs Recreation Reserve)
SFNL MATCH OF THE DAY
Listen live on 88.3 Southern FM or via sfnllive.com.au.
The Bombers are yet to be back to their best and will be tested against a strong Port Melbourne side that are a picture of confidence following their thumping Round 1 victory. The Bombers will be keen to maintain a strong record at home this season but will be up against it taking on the Colts who should be able to make it 2-0 in their first SFNL campaign.
Port Melbourne Colts by 30 points
MURRUMBEENA vs HEATHERTON (Murrumbeena Park)
The boys from the Beena Arena will be bitterly disappointed with their Round 1 efforts and will look for atonement against the Tonners this week. Heatherton will be confident after its win over Springvale Districts and will look to cause another upset. Although last week’s result was a setback, Murrumbeena are still a legitimate contender in my eyes and will bounce back with a win.
Murrumbeena by 25 points
SPRINGVALE DISTRICTS vs CAULFIELD (Springvale Reserve)
Springvale will be desperate to get a win on the board but will have it tough coming up against a Bears side on top of the world after defeating Chelsea Heights. Caulfield was a big improver in 2015 and look to be continuing on an upward trend. The Bears will be simply too good in this one.
Caulfield by 26 points
HIGHETT vs KEYSBOROUGH (Turner Road Reserve)
The Kennel will be up and about on Saturday as Highett kicks off its season after having the bye in Round 1. The Dogs host Keysborough who started the season off with a win and although it wasn’t its best performance, will give them confidence going into Round 2. This is the kind of game Highett normally gets up for and I’m tipping the Dogs to be ready for a battle.
Highett by five points.
BYE - HAMPTON
DIVISION 3 – Round 2 Preview
With Andrew Paloczi
As we look towards round 2, there are a few teams desperate to bounce back from heavy first-up losses.
ENDEAVOUR HILLS vs DOVETON EAGLES (Barry Simon Reserve)
After an impressive away win over Ashwood, Endeavour Hills has reason to be positive as it hosts Doveton. But the ease with which the Eagles won their round 1 game suggests the Falcons need to lift several gears to come out on top in this battle of the birds.
By the end of this contest it is likely to be Falcon feathers flying.
SOUTH YARRA vs MOORABBIN KANGAROOS (Fritsch Holzer Park)
South Yarra has the advantage of its sloped home ground presenting a unique challenge for visiting teams. It may take Moorabbin a while to adjust, but the Kangaroos should be right in the game and are likely to prevail after a good contest.
DANDENONG vs MOUNT WAVERLEY (Greaves Reserve)
Dandenong can draw encouragement from the fact Mount Waverley is the visiting team. Unfortunately, few other positives are likely to emerge for the Redlegs in this game. Expect the Mountain Lions to claim the points in emphatic fashion.
HALLAM vs LYNDALE (Hallam Reserve)
Hallam impressed in round 1 and will be in with a chance to build on this start when it hosts Lyndale. This should be a good game, but the Pumas are likely to make it two wins in a row in an entertaining match.
CARRUM PATTERSON LAKES vs ASHWOOD (Roy Dore Reserve)
Carrum Patterson Lakes will be glad to be back on its home turf after a horror start to the season. Expect substantial improvement against Ashwood, but the Magpies will be the first of these sides to claim the points this season.
SANDOWN COBRAS vs LYNDHURST (Edinburgh Reserve)
Lyndhurst was right in contention for three quarters of its first senior match, before falling away. This week Sandown hosts the Lightning, after the Cobras suffered a big loss in round 1.
Sandown will strive to assert itself early against its inexperienced opponents. But Lyndhurst has demonstrated that it can be competitive. This one is tough to pick, but the Cobras may just get the job done at home.
AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL COLLEGE UNDER 19 – Round 1 Preview
With Alex Charles
Saturday April 16
East Brighton-Bentleigh vs St Pauls
Oakleigh District vs Cheltenham
Highett vs Hallam
Endeavour Hills vs St Kilda City
Dingley vs Hampton
Bye - CPL
Based on the 2015 campaign, the early season games are important, but like any season the teams who want to be there in September will need to arc their performance during the season to peak at the right time. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how Endeavour Hills compete against reigning premiers St Kilda City. The Eagles enter the competition as a relatively unknown side – similar to the Saints during their 2015 debut season. However, the Eagles are a strong all-round football club and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially as St Kilda possess multiple key players capable of advancing to the senior ranks during the season.
In addition, Highett get an opportunity to continue their upward progress when they face Hallam following the withdrawal of Keysborough from the competition. Although Hallam appear to be favourites based on last season’s form, Highett will be eager to have a strong start to their campaign. Similarly, Oakleigh District host Cheltenham on Saturday morning and will be looking to build on their fifth-placed finish last season despite a relatively new-look squad.
And, while there are only five games per round, the quality of football continues to improve and there will be no shortage of interest for the fans – particularly with the East-Brighton-Bentleigh Vampires taking the field for the first time. It will definitely be very interesting to see how they perform against the in-form Bulldogs given their mix of new talent.
Under 19 latecomers Carrum Patterson Lakes will have a bye first up.
Charlesy's Match of the Round
DINGLEY vs HAMPTON (Souter Oval, 10:30am)
Dingley and Hampton were two of the better sides during 2015. The Dingoes’ participation during the season launch has given the side some good practice ahead of this fixture with the Hammers. Dingley will be looking to regroup from the defeat to St Pauls and possess enough quality to do so. Availability of players will be key with emphasis on Madison Talarico – and despite Dingley having the home advantage it is likely that Hampton will be the favourites.
Moreover, this weekend’s games will give supporters and teams a better understanding of where they stand. The league underwent a big shift from the Bentleigh-Dingley dominance of past seasons during 2015 and expectations of 2016 are no different with multiple clubs set to challenge for the premiership.