Pies’ premiership defence begins

Magpies, Eagles ready for flight    Gippsland League round one teams

SALE will look back on the achievements of 2012 before beginning the journey towards another tomorrow.

The Magpies' 2012 Gippsland League football premiership flag will be unfurled ahead of their round one home game against Traralgon.

Having won their past 14 matches, victory tomorrow would see the Magpies equal their best run of wins during their 1973 premiership season.

The Magpies have maintained much of their line-up from last year, with John Gooch among the notable exceptions. Added the mix they have been Jake Schuback and Rowan Bell from Sale City.

Coach Matt Ferguson was pleased with the team's pre-season work, and expected an exciting year with many young players pressing for senior selection. Ferguson hoped their enthusiasm would rub off on the more experienced players.

Ferguson described the relocation of the Lakeside Club, known previously as the Sale Community Sports Club, to the Sale Bowls Club as part of a merger as the best thing to have happened to the Sale Football-Netball Club for many years. Having full use of the building, Ferguson said, would make the team spirit even stronger.

At this stage of the season, the Magpies should be looking to start another campaign, not going for back-to-back flags. But opposition sides will see the Magpies as the "hunted" rather than the "hunter".

The first team to test itself against last season's benchmark will be Traralgon, the 2011 premier.

The Maroons will be led by non-playing coach and former player Paul McCulloch.

On the sidelines, McCulloch will be assisted by club legends Tony Lane and Greg Morley, while Tom McQualter and Dan McKenna will help on-field. This brains trust can only help the Maroons this season.

With wins by 58 and 67 points last season, the Magpies' strong defence kept the Maroons to under 10 goals on both occasions, the first time this happened since 1975.

MAFFRA'S bid for a 14th consecutive finals appearance begins at Moe.

The Eagles will face a Lions side in a rebuilding phase, with a number of key players leaving. The Lions will be blooding their younger players, willing to take short term pain for long term gain.

Maffra will also be promoting some younger players of its own this season, with their development aided by playing alongside some experienced premiership players.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles have altered their backline structure, as has been tipped.

Expect the experienced Maffra side to control proceedings in the midfield, and hence the match, against last year's wooden spooner.

IN other matches tomorrow, Leongatha will head to Bairnsdale, having won its past 12 encounters against the Redlegs, and Wonthaggi and Morwell, two sides with something to prove after disappointing finishes to 2012, will meet in what should be a tight tussle. Warragul will host Drouin on Sunday in the first derby of the season.

For more read Friday's Gippsland Times.

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