THE continuation of North Gippsland football's opening round offers up some good clashes on Saturday, none better than the match-up between Rosedale and Traralgon-Tyers United.
Despite Rosedale finishing two games and two spots behind TTU on the ladder in 2019, the Blues ended the Bombers season in the first semi-final when these two powerhouses last met. Even though many of the names on the respective team sheets will have changed come Saturday, last year's result is sure to be fresh in the minds of those who played.
Jamie Aitken is now at the helm for the Bombers and with him comes a raft of recruits, many of whom having more than held their own at higher levels in Gippsland and interstate. Rosedale also has had significant churn through it list with several better players, such as Brad Scott, Ben Jones and Adam Diamond, looking for opportunities elsewhere.
The poorly timed wet weather predicted for Saturday might prevent this game reaching the lofty heights it otherwise might have, but it should make for a physical contest. This may suit the home town Blues, with TTU traditionally favouring playing a more expansive, free-flowing game style.
A key focus for Rosedale will be to stop the run and carry of the TTU outside brigade. The feeling among punters is Rosedale would much prefer a scrap while Aitken-coached sides have often preferred to slingshot off half back and to score freely.
One of the keys to this style of game will be Ricky Cochrane, who for the past several years has received and run the ball up and down the wings in the NGFNL. If Rosedale can put the clamps on Cochrane, it will go a long way toward not only kicking off its 2021 campaign with a win, but will also gone one-up over a side it will likely be competing with for a spot at the sharp end of the ladder comes season's end.
ONLY failing to finish top three in 2019 because of an administration error, Heyfield will be looking to begin its season by knocking off the always competitive Cowwarr. This year will see several Roos returning home, with Nick Dowse and a trio of Stubbes arguably giving coach Rick Galea a stronger list than he had at his disposal during his first season in charge.
Cowwarr finished off 2019 in style by knocking off preliminary finalist Rosedale before defeating Glengarry by 154 points.
While outsiders in this game, the Saints' victory over a rampant Yarram early in the 2019 will ensure they enter this clash with a genuine belief they can beat anyone on their day. It should also ensure Heyfield does not make the mistake of taking the Saints lightly.
WITH new coach Michael Duncan steering Woodside and the return of several players from the Gippsland League, there is a fair bit to like about the Wildcats as they shape up for the new season.
Recruits such as Josh Scott will give Duncan some class to run through the middle of the ground and some quality finishing options in front of goal in their match against Glengarry.
Magpies coach Steve Henry will be more than just hopeful this year will see the side climb out of the bottom two spots on the ladder, which it has held across the past two seasons. On the back of a successful thirds program over the past two years, Glengarry must surely be ready to begin the climb back up the ladder.
Unlike the other three clubs to have won a thirds premierships since 2014, Glengarry has not been able to parlay that success into a senior flag.
GORMANDALE will begin the season under new coach Daniel Earl by hosting Sale City.
Once the most feared side in the NGFNL, the Bulldogs have failed to meet the standards they set for themselves several years ago when they had all of their football teams playing in premiership deciders. Under new coach Shane Fyfe, who boasts as impressive a footy CV as you will see, there is an air of expectation coming out of Stephensons Park.
A win is a must to keep the optimism of a return to finals action alive and to ensure spectators see and hear plenty from the 'Deckheads' when Sale City next plays at home.
CHURCHILL will have another week to prepare for its season opener. This game sees the reigning premier take on what must be a bullish Yallourn-Yallourn North outfit, which announced its arrival to the NGFNL in style with a resounding 38-point win over Yarram on Good Friday.
Coach: Rick Galea; previous season: fifth (12 wins, seven losses).
In: James Beha (returning), Liam Lemon (Stratford), Nicholas Dowse (Sale), Charlie Driffield (Maffra), Liam Heasely (Sale), Daniel Stubbe (Boisdale-Briagolong), Jordan Stubbe (Boisdale Briagolong), Joshua Stubbe (Boisdale Briagolong); out: Nick Woodland (VAFA), Nick Dinsdale (Bendigo).
IT was a controversial 2019 season for Heyfield, with the docking of four premiership points late in the campaign costing them a crucial top three finish. Eventually falling in the elimination final, 2021 offers the Kangaroos a fresh start with a host of Heyfield favourites returning to bolster what is an already powerful list.
Most noticeably is the homecoming of Jordan, Joshua and Daniel Stubbe from Boisdale Briagolong.
Along with the Stubbe brothers, coach Rick Galea was excited to see what established players Jack Woodland and Adam Wallis can produce this season, while the return of James Beha will add some further class to what is an exciting team.
Coach: Jeremy Jones; previous season: seventh (seven wins, 11 losses).
In: Ben Bould (Central Highlands FL), Lucas Jenkinson (Moe), Matthew Leceister (Hill End); out: William Runciman (Eastern FNL), Kyle Stamers (Southern FNL), Nicholas Szabatura (Central Highlands FL).
COWWARR will be hoping for continued growth in 2021 following its seventh placed finish in 2019.
Looking to break an eight-year finals drought, the Saints will be as determined as ever to get back on the field after a year off and surprise a few people in the North Gippsland league.
Lucas Jenkinson comes from Moe and will add some extra grunt around the contest, whilst talented junior Matthew Leicester returns to the club and will be an exciting young addition to the senior side.
Second generation Saint Braden Johnston was recently announced to lead the club in 2021.
Coach: Daniel Earl; previous season: 10th (no wins, 18 losses).
In: Luke Mackay (Moe), John Chessells (Moe), Josh Pearce (Moe), Matt Coutts (Yinnar), Jack Burgess (AFL South Coast, NSW), William Flanagan (Sunraysia FNL), Jesse Gillam (Southern FNL), Jarryd Movchan (Newborough), John Northey (Glengarry; out: Joseph Colaciello (Southern FNL), Brayden Duve (Morwell), Karl Mutke (Trafalgar), Damian Yates (Yinnar).
IT was a season to forget for Gormandale in 2019 as it failed to chalk up a win and suffered some big losses.
However, a new year brings new hope for the Tigers, with Daniel Earl returning to help guide their rebuild.
Previously the reserves coach at Moe, Earl has brought with him a number of recruits from the Gippsland League club in the hope of bringing some class to a team in serious need of some X-factor.
Coach: Shane Fyfe; previous season: sixth (eight wins, 10 losses).
In: Kobi Cook (Swan Reach), Dylan Cott (Southern FNL), Harrison Evans (Northern FNL), Shane Fyfe (Sale), Nicholas Ierardi (Heyfield), Brandon Jackson (Heyfield), Buckley Karagiozaki-Butcher (Lucknow), Blake Safstrom (Sale), Tom Shembrey (VAFA), Michael Todd (Sale); out: Nick Grainger (Morwell East), Josh Granger (Boisdale-Briagolong), Jack Heywood (Stratford), Adon Lumley (AFL Canberra), Kyle O'Reilly (Stratford).
SALE City comes into this season with renewed hope as Sale legend Shane Fyfe makes the trip across town to sign as a player-coach for 2021.
Fyfe brings a wealth of knowledge to the Bulldogs, as well as playing assistant Michael Todd.
The influence of Fyfe can already be seen with a host of players from the Gippsland league choosing to join Sale City, boosting the club's depth in a number of key areas.
Coach: Brad McKay; previous season: third (12 wins, nine losses).
In: Brad McKay (Sale City), Blake Aurish (Traralgon), Wilson Gauidan (Traralgon), Bobby Marshall (Traralgon), Corey Beaver (returning); out: Ben Jones (Lindenow).
THE story of the finals series in 2019, Rosedale turned its fifth-placed ladder finish into a preliminary final birth following consecutive wins in September.
Now heading into the new year with supreme confidence, new coach Brad McKay will enjoy excellent continuity with his squad with a number of younger players pushing for greater roles in 2021.
A trio of additions from Traralgon will help further build the depth of this team, while Corey Beaver returns after a couple of years off.
A model of consistency in the North Gippsland League, expect the Blues to be around the mark again in 2021.
Coach: Jamie Aitken; previous season: fourth (12 wins, eight losses).
In: Jack Brown (Morwell), Braydon Catlin (Morwell), Jayden Cutts (Eastern FL), Lachlan Davison (Traralgon), Liam Eade (Yinnar), Kieran Jones (Maffra), Tyler Mudita (Glengarry), Zachary Standish (Adelaide FL), Joshua Ward (Eastern FL), Jarrod Whiteman (Eastern FL), Liam Willaton (Traralgon); out: Max Conway (VAFA), Liam Deering (Traralgon), Tim Aitken (retired), Luke Middleton (retired).
TRARALGON-Tyers United will be itching to get the season underway as the Bombers looks to continue their development and push towards the top of the ladder.
Sporting a relatively young squad, the Bombers have had worked this pre-season to nail a fast-paced game plan designed by coach Jamie Aitken.
Aitken was especially excited what the likes of Jye Neilson, Hayden Willaton and Dougal Williams can produce with increased responsibilities. They will also be bolstered by a host of solid inclusions, highlighted by the signing of Maffra ruckman Kieran Jones.
Coach: Michael Duncan; previous season: eighth (five wins, 13 losses).
In: David Waddell (Wy Yung), Brett Waddell (Bairnsdale), Pat L'Huillier (MPNFL), Josh Scott (Morwell), Cam Whiteoak (Traralgon), Kim Kantilla (NTFL), Will Broadbent (Traralgon), Ben Mattern (Yarram), Ben Johnson (Traralgon), Tom Jessup (Southern FNL), Michael Duncan (TTU); out: Tim Henricken (TTU), Izayha Speer (Riddell DFL), Mike Bayly (injured), Gary Jones (retired), Thomas Glenn (Sale).
SPORTING one of the league's youngest playing lists in 2021, Woodside will be looking to improve from their lowly finish in 2019 and climb back up the ladder.
Coming into the new season with a host of new additions, it is exciting times down at the Woodside Recreation Reserve with recruiters searching far and wide for the best talent.
Coach Michael Duncan will also be expecting a number of his younger players to take a step forward in 2021, with the year off providing the list some crucial time to develop.
Coach: Steve Henry; previous season: ninth (three wins, 15 losses).
In: Jackson Hall (Traralgon), Adrian Slottje (Traralgon), Zac Gray (Traralgon), Ross McDermott (Yarra Valley), Nat Freitag, Pete Brady; out: Caleb Frith (Traralgon), Liam Mitchell (Glengarry), Tyler Morley (AFL Sydney), Tyler Mudita (Traralgon-Tyers United), Jarrad Neilson (Boisdale Briagolong), John Northey (Gormandale), Alister Young (NTFL).
THIS year offers a fresh start for Glengarry, following the disappointment of just four wins over the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
With coach Steve Henry in his second year at the helm, the Magpies will be looking for growth for their young squad as they strive to become a competitive force in the North Gippsland league.
Nat Freitag returns to the football field, and will be a welcome addition to the club's key position stocks, while a trio of players from Traralgon, Jackson Hall, Adrian Slottje and Zac Gray, will bring some much-needed depth.
Coach: Chris Williams; previous season: premier (19 wins, two losses).
In: Michael Diaz (Southern FNL), Matt Dyke (Yinnar), Angus Mitchell (Garfield), Christopher Wangman (Southern FNL); out: Kane Iorangi (Morwell), Noah Deubel (VAFA), Joel Mason (Boolarra), Rory Peter (Mirboo North), Aidyn Sheers (Boolarra).
CHURCHILL will come into the 2021 season as reigning premier following a 2019 season where it dropped just two games.
Now finally given the chance to defend their crown, the Cougars will enter the season with excellent continuity with only a handful of major changes effecting the senior side.
Coming from Darwin, new assistant coach Jake Roe-Duggan will provide plenty for the Cougars both tactically and on the field, while the likes of Angus Mitchell and Christopher Wangman come in and solidify their depth at key positions.
Entering the 2021 season as the side to beat, Churchill plays an exciting brand of football that is sure to attract plenty of supporters.
- Previews compiled by Zac Standish.