RELATED: EGFNL season preview
THE North and East Gippsland football seasons begin on Friday.
Yarram will host Woodside in the North Gippsland league this afternoon, while Paynesville has enlisted two former AFL players for tonight’s East Gippsland match against Lakes Entrance.
Ruckman Trent Knobel, who played 75 AFL games for Brisbane, St Kilda and Richmond, and Shane Harvey, who played 14 games for Essendon and North Melbourne, will make one-off appearances for the Gulls at home.
Twelve months ago, Lakes Entrance fielded former Richmond player Shane Tuck against the Gulls.
The North Gippsland clash will mark Anthony Pavey’s return as Yarram coach after a two-year break and Daniel Risol’s debut at the helm of Woodside.
Non-playing coach Pavey has recruited astutely in the off-season for the Demons.
Big men Lukas Jenkins (Heyfield), Justin Staley and Chris Pettit (Woodside) will add a dimension which was lacking in the club’s first season in the league last year.
“We have signed a number of key position players in the off-season which will see us boast key targets in front of goal, including Staley and fellow recruit Andrew Kiley,” Pavey said.
“While we have recruited key position players, we also welcome back defenders, stop gap players, Trek Davis and Jack Moore who will work well with the likes of Ryan Coulthard down back.”
With the Demons falling shy of a finals berth last season, Pavey complimented the coach of the past two years Grif Underwood, who laid the foundations to make a tilt at finals action.
“Grif has done a great job with the guys, the younger guys are a bit older, they have more experience behind them and are stronger bodied,” Pavey said.
With a crowd of more than 2000 expected to converge on the Yarram Recreation Reserve, first year coach Risol will be looking for the Widlcats to rise to the occasion.
“I’m not willing to put any position on the ladder as to how we will fair, we are a relatively young side an average age of 22 to 23. What I will be looking for is for those guys that have played senior footy over the past two to three seasons to just not fill the spots, but to take the game on,” Risol said.
“I will be looking for them to bring the brand of football that served them well in the closing stages of last season. We have spoken as a group how I want the guys to stand up and take charge.”
Risol, last year’s Mid Gippsland league best-and-fairest, noted the excitement and eagerness among his list ahead of the Good Friday clash.
“Everyone has been talking about round one for months, it has been circled as the big clash. A win would be ideal, but it will require everyone having a crack and no one holding back,” he said.
“With the split round we have 14 days to recover for round two, so I would be expecting a hard, physical contest.”
Round one of the NGFNL will conclude next weekend with Churchill hosting Heyfield in a rematch of last year’s grand final, Sale City heading to Rosedale, Cowwarr heading to Glengarry and Gormandale at home to Traralgon-Tyers United.
In the East Gippsland league, Paynesville, which was knocked out of last year’s finals in the first week, will be without reigning league best-and-fairest Damien Ashcroft, who is bound for the VFL.
Among the inclusions are Craig Taylor from Poowong and James Heslop from Donald.
For his side to take a step-up to match the likes of Stratford and Wy Yung, coach Darren Martin is looking for a attitude adjustment from the players.
Coming off a fifth-placed finish in 2014, Lakes Entrance coach Anthony Woodland will have some handy additions to his squad, including former Sale player Luke Reggardo and three players from the Tiwi Bombers in the Northern Territory.
Ash Bennett has departed for Swifts Creek, while the Seagulls have also lost Mick Battista and Joel Waters.
Next weekend, EGFNL’s first round will conclude with Stratford at home to Boisdale-Briagolong, Orbost-Snowy Rovers hosting Lindenow and Wy Yung heading to Lucknow.