THE North Gippsland football season begins on Saturday, with teams looking to displace Yarram as the premier.
The Demons, who only lost won match last year, will begin their premiership defence at Woodside.
With Matt Scholz remaining coach, Yarram has a few things on its side heading into season 2019 – the main one is depth.
The Demons’ reserves also won the flag last season and their thirds have played finals four of the past five years, having won back-to-back premierships in 2016 and 2017.
The loss of stalwarts like Corbin Sutherland, Josh Swift, Trek Davis and Jake Anderson is going to hurt, but may also provide opportunities for younger players such as Bradyn Wilson to step-up.
Ryan Foat takes over from Todd Bryant as Woodside coach.
The arrival and departure of Bohdi Walker back to Sale City seems to have been the catalyst for other players to seek opportunities elsewhere. Bryant, who starred in the midfield during his two seasons with the Wildcats, is among the departures.
ROSEDALE will host a new look Gormandale side. Spurred on by their elimination final loss to Sale City, the Blues have been boosted by the recruitment of some quality performers at the higher level.
On top of the likes of Rohan Hildebrand, Brandon McDonald and Ben Jones, the Blues have had back-to-back seasons of above average under 18 footballers who should be ready to take up the load.
Last year it felt as if Frazar Brouns didn’t kick a bag of goals, the opposition could hold Rosedale to a losing score. Throwing McDonald and Hildebrand into the front six gives the Blues a much less predictable structure.
A couple of last year’s local under 18s, Riley Atlee and Nicholas Twomey, will also provide some outside run.
Rosedale has also managed to wrestle Will Logan, one of Heyfield’s better performed thirds from last year.
Gormandale’s list will not include up to a dozen first choice players from last season.
Names like Joey Colaciello, Chase Saunders, Troy Forrest, Brayden Duve and Alistair Jenkin are all confirmed departures.
A major addition has been Tim Northe from Traralgon. Another positive for the Tigers is the long list of thirds heading to the club.
SALE City will head to Cowwarr for its opening match.
With top-end talent to burn and a penchant for picking up gun players, Sale City has an ability to peak when it matters.
The loss of Chris Kelf is huge and the Bulldogs have also missed a chance to tap into some of the super talented juniors with Thomas Mann, Ari Fleming and Hamish Telfer taking on challenges at the higher level.
These losses are somewhat offset by the returning Zac Hider and the influx of other former Sale players.
Bohdi Walker, Ben Chivers, coach Jacob Schuback and Justin McLay will likely do more than enough to trouble the better sides and will certainly be capable of blowing away the lesser sides.
Former Maffra player Jeremy Jones will coach Cowwarr this season.
The passion and off-field set-up is never a worry for the Saints and they have the top end talent and a pool of proud and passionate players to call upon, but they appear to be another season away from pushing back into the top half of the ladder.
Linden Brunt is looking to return and along with several other recruits, the Saints appear to have a slightly stronger list than 2018, which was hardly a season to write home about.
It was a season that saw them chalk up just the two wins and finish with a percentage of 53.43.
HEYFIELD will host Glengarry.
After missing the top five last year for the first time since 2011, the Kangaroos will be looking to hop back into finals contention under new coach Rick Galea.
Familiar Heyfield names are returning to the club, like Nick Dinsdale, Jesse Bedggood, Jesse Jackway and Nick Woodland.
The pick of the emerging sides might be Glengarry.
New coach Steve Henry and the inclusion of former AFL-listed player Jay Nagle will certainly help, but after a couple of years which yielded some strong showings in the seconds and thirds, the time is right for the Magpies to start the upward march.
TRARALGON-Tyers United will look to avenge its preliminary final loss to Churchill when the sides meet at Gaskin Park.
Grand finalist Churchill will come into season 2019 with a strong squad.
The one gap in the Cougars’ list appeared to be a second key defender, with several players regularly forced to fight out of their weight division in the back half.
Lucas Towns has returned to Gaskin Park, and can play both ends of the ground. He and Kurt Holt will be tasked with stopping the opposition’s best two key forwards most weeks.
Joining Nathan McRae in the ruck will be Dylan Leys and last year’s thirds team of the year big man Dustin Weir, meaning the Cougars will have most teams covered in the middle of the ground.
The main beneficiaries of this will be the evergreen Travis Brighton and coach Chris Williams. Likely joining them in the midfield will be the runner-up in last year’s league best-and-fairest Brendan Mason.
Ben Kearns will again prove hard to stop up forward with his combination of speed and footy smarts, while Brendan Holt will likely take the opposition’s best key defender.
The poise and balance of Simon Noy and the hard edge, both physically and verbally, of Michael Jacobsen will be sorely missed by TTU this year.
The Bombers have also lost their most exciting under age prospect, Branden McAuliffe.
An outstanding junior, Jake Cashmore has already tasted senior football, and could provide some much needed pace.
Older heads like Adam Bailey and Tim Aitken on the Bomber team sheet will be central to TTU’s hopes. They, along with Jack Brown and Ricky Cochrane, will need big years for the Bombers to remain in the premiership hunt.