By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN and Romsey will relish a return to football action after a year off in 2020 when they square off in round one of Riddell District Football Netball League action on Saturday.
Both teams have voiced finals aspirations after finishing fifth and second on the ladder respectively in 2019.
Wallan has enticed former Bowen Medal winner Jesse Davies back from Craigeburn in the Essendon District Football League in a move that will immediately strengthen the Magpies’ onball brigade.
Assistant coach Spencer Mathieson said apart from Davies’ signing, Wallan would look much the same as it did two years ago.
“We’ve lost a couple but recruited a couple, so the numbers are pretty much the same. We haven’t had a large turnover,” he said.
“Things have been going pretty well. Coming off COVID the training numbers have been pretty good.
“After last year we thought a few people’s priorities might have changed and it might take them a while to come back to footy, but the support from the players has been outstanding. The numbers have been really good for the practice matches.”
Mathieson said the Magpies had their sights set on another top-six finish and were looking forward to hosting Romsey for the annual CFA Cup.
“We’ve made finals the last two seasons, so we’ll be hoping to do that again. That’s the immediate goal, and after that we’ll see where we end up,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to round one at home against Romsey for the CFA Cup. They made the finals in 2019 so they should be a good side again, and it should be a good contest.”
Romsey president Adam Rademaker said his side was also raring to go.
He said new coach Paul Kennedy had brought a positive outlook to the young Redbacks.
“Paul has got a good background and plenty of football knowledge. He’s been super over the summer, so everyone’s enjoying having him on board,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of new recruits, but it’s going to be a year of playing the kids.
“We’ve got a really good group of young kids coming through, so it will be exciting to see them develop.
“Players like Corey Pertzel, Kane Brinkhuis and Dean Walsh will get opportunities.”
While the Redbacks will take a youth focus into 2020, Rademaker said finals were still a goal.
“I expect the under-19s will be strong, and the seniors I think will make finals,” he said.
“You’ve got four powerhouse clubs spending truckloads, but we’ll be competitive and if they’re not switched on, you can really match it with them at the same time.”
Lancefield has a round-one bye, but president Michael Tindley said the club’s strong recruiting during 2020 and 2021 would stand it on good stead when it hosted Romsey in round two.
“I would expect we would have up to a dozen senior players who are playing for us for the first time in round one,” he said.
“We signed seven guys prior to 2020 and they’ve stuck around, and there’s another nine new blokes, of which five will probably play seniors as well.
“It’s really good. We’ve tried to introduce them to the locals so the community knows all the new players.”
Heading the list of recruits is the versatile Harrison Taylor, a versatile former Prahran Assumption Football Club star and son of AFL commentator Brian Taylor.
Onballer Jay Russell is expected to add class around the contests after crossing from Whittlesea, and Thomastown recruit Luke Fellows will help shore up the Tigers’ backline.
Tindley said no players had asked for transfers away from the club, and the only senior players the team had lost were not playing football this year.
“We’ve had four years of not a lot of success, so maybe half the senior team in normal circumstances would have been playing reserves,” he said.
“With the influx of guys that we’ve got, it means hopefully it will strengthen both teams, and a lot of guys with senior experience will be playing reserves this year.”
Tindley said new coach Tom Waters would bring an attacking approach in his first season at the helm.
“He’s really just developing the team and getting the relationships going. He’s put some pretty basic structures in place, and we’ve identified where we think our strengths are,” he said.
“He’s working game plans for that, so we’d expect to be a pretty fast running and fast ball-moving team.”