RELATED: 2017 fixture
THE Latrobe Valley Soccer League season begins this Sunday.
Under returning coach Ross McWhirter (pictured), Sale United will host last year’s champion Moe United.
In other round one matches, Fortuna will host Traralgon City, Newborough-Yallourn United will travel to Traralgon to meet Olympians, Falcons will welcome East Gippsland United, Trafalgar Victory will host Monash, and Churchill United will head to Tyers.
The season will feature 12 senior teams, with Morwell Pegasus not fielding a LVSL team, instead focusing on its state league side.
The same 12 clubs will feature in the reserves and women’s competitions.
Sale United will be one nine clubs fielding second division teams.
Coach: Kevin O’Farrell; last season: first; in: Riley Atkinson (Gippsland FC); out: Joel Baldwin (Warragul United), Ash Birrell (NYC), Sam Gatpan (Pegasus), Owen Kelly, James McHallam (Monash).
THE Red Devils have been hit hard by an exodus of players but still have an abundance of depth to call on to help fill the void. The loss of best-and-fairest and top scorer Joel Baldwin will be hard to replace.
With a number of young and exciting players coming through the ranks, one would be brave to write off the defending champions.
Coach: Nick d’Allesandro; last season: second; in: Jamie Pistrin (Olympians); out: DJ Matar (Traralgon City).
LAST season’s runner-up will be looking to reclaim the crown it relinquished. A Battle of Britain Cup win meant the Morwell club took home some silverware in 2016.
The Birds’ pre-season build-up has been good, defeating two State League Five sides in the FFA Cup.
With minimal changes, the familiarity of the squad and the ever reliable goals of Jesse Kennedy, expect another title tilt.
Coach: Clayton Bell; last season: third; in: Joel Pirotta (Pegasus), Liam McLuskey (Traralgon City), Alex Bowman (Pegasus), Ash Birrell (Moe United), Dave O’Dowd (Traralgon City), Hayden Tanti (Pegasus FFV), Stuart Ashdown (Pegasus FFV); out: Brandon Scott (Olympians).
ALL the talk has been about the Combine this off-season.
Former Pegasus state league team coach Clayton Bell has taken over from Tim Armistead. Some shrewd recruiting has seen the club add depth and quality to their senior squad with diminutive midfielders Joel Pirotta and Ash Birrell the jewels in the crown.
Losing of league best-and-fairest Brandon Scott is the only concern, but they will again have Mark Fairbrother to rely on for goals.
The Combine will be keen to harvest more silverware after winning the pre-season Kendall Cup.
Coach: Braydon Dunne; last season: fourth; in: Damian Dunne, Jarryd Johnson, Matt McGrath; out: Ellis Hayes-Hills, Michael Easton, Raymond Myers, Jake Ferreira.
FIRST year coach Braydon Dunne takes over the helm at the Rams and looking to improve on last season’s semi-final loss.
The return of Matt McGrath and Jarryd Johnson will help soften the blow of losing top scorers Ellis Hayes-Hills and Raymond Myers who combined for 29 goals last season.
With a core of Paul Riess, Luke van Lambaart, Dean Pyle and the Jackson brothers, the Rams have plenty of quality and experience.
Coach: Andres Nilo; last season: fifth; in: Jon Cook (Olympians), James McHallam (Moe United), Sam Pilcher (Gippsland FC); out: Ty Christy.
AN extra time loss to Churchill in the quarter-final will motivate a relatively unchanged Monash side.
The loss of Ty Christy will be a big blow; his 24 league goals will need to be replaced.
Jon Cook will give them some steel and versatility and James McHallam brings defensive nous as the Newborough-based Wolves will hope to again continue their improvement under Andres Nilo.
Coach: Tommy Leckey; last season: sixth; in: Jake Budija (Tyers), DJ Matar (Falcons), Liam Antonelli (Olympians), Declan Wilson (Olympians), Takudzwa Gwara; out: Liam McCluskey (NYU).
EXPERIENCED coach Tommy Leckey will return to the club after leading the Roosters to a fourth-placed finish in his previous stint in 2012.
Having lacked a prominent goal scorer in 2016, City will be hoping DJ Matar and Jake Budija can strike up a partnership to fire them up the ladder. Both are coming off prominent seasons for their former clubs and will be hoping the goals continue to flow in the black and white.
Coach: George Fkiaris; last season: seventh; in: Brandon Scott (NYU), Daniel Cooper (Fortuna); out: Jamie Pistrin (Falcons), Jon Cook (Monash), Chad Shelley, Liam Antonelli (Traralgon City), Declan Wilson (Traralgon City).
AFTER a seventh place finish last season, Olympians will expect to climb higher in 2017.
With Alradi Ali and Tony Pardo returning, they have marksmen who know how to find the net on a regular basis. The addition of Brandon Scott gives them an attacking trio that is the envy of the league.
If they can tighten up defensively the good times could be set to return to Harold Preston Reserve.
Coach: Luke Cheney; last season: eighth; in: Bryson Tanti (Pegasus FFV), Danel Holt (Pegasus FFV), Tony Nicholson (Pegasus), Shannon Whadcoat (Pegasus); out: Daniel Cooper (Olympians), Danny Dunne, Frank Albanese.
AFTER a disappointing eighth place finish in 2016, the Orangemen will expect bigger and better things in 2017.
A large number of faces return to the fold from Pegasus, with Hayden Tanti taking some of the goal scoring burden off Cheney. With up to seven new players in the starting 11, they may take time for the squad gel, but if it does, it will be a force to be reckoned with.
Coach: Ross McWhirter; last season: ninth; in: nil; out: Josh Deschepper.
THE Swans have been quietly building under the returning Ross McWhirter. It was a young squad that gained a lot of experience last season, so expect it to continue to improve.
If they can get Tommy Nguyen back and firing Sale could be big movers up the ladder.
There were positive signs for the Swans from the pre-season Kendall Cup, only losing their semi-final on penalties.
Coach: Luke Massaro; last season: 10th; in: nil; out: Jake Budija (Traralgon City).
FIRST year coach Luke Massaro takes the reigns from Gareth Harris in 2017.
The Lightning was competitive last season, but lacked the depth to challenge week in, week out. The loss of top goal scorer Jake Budija will lump further pressure on Shayne Pavich.
Massaro will be hoping their young players can continue their improvement and they can turn their home park into a fortress.
Coach: Eamon O’Hare; last season: 11th; in: Jake Borsarto (returning), Josh Paredes (returning), Rhys Matchett; out: Brian Farmer (Drouin), Aaron Vaughn (Drouin)
TRAFALGAR has assembled a young squad which proved stern opposition last season. A win against Churchill and a draw against Olympians proved Victory could not be underestimated.
With wily coach Eamon O’Hare again at the helm you know they’ll be hard to break down.
The return of Josh Paredes gives the Victory some extra class in the midfield.
If Trafalgar can find a regular goal scorer, it could repeat the Churchill result on a more frequent basis.
East Gippsland United
Coach: Jarrah Feather; last season: 12th; in: nil; out: nil.
AFTER a tough 2016, the Bairnsdale-based club returns with senior and reserve sides.
Due to a lack of numbers United often played without the full complement, but it looked to have picked up quite a few returning players to bolster the ranks.
With Bradley Cutts between the sticks they have one of the best keepers in the league, but he’ll be hoping that he’s not called upon as frequently as last season.