In the first of our previews for the upcoming football and netball season, we look at the Lakers prospects.CHALPAT SONTI March 27, 2014 4:46am
It’s almost time for football and netball again; how will our local sides go?
Nagambie, Avenel and Seymour respectively will start their 2014 campaigns during the next three weeks. In the first of a series of three previews CHALPAT SONTI looks at the prospects for Nagambie, which starts with a trip to play old rival Undera on Saturday.
It’s a formula that saw Murchison successful last year and Nagambie coach Linc Sullivan sees nothing to say it won’t help his side go that little bit further than the past two seasons.
‘‘I reckon when you inject youth as well as a touch of experience and good targets up forward as we have there’s no reason why you can’t go really well,’’ Sullivan said.
Add to that some expected improvement from players who experienced breakout seasons in 2013, a couple of comeback kids and some depth and the Lakers should be eyeing off a place on the big day in September.
Nagambie reached a preliminary final in 2012 despite losing just about its entire first-choice midfield to injury, and was just a game short of that last year in what must surely have been the most even (and strong) KDFL competition in years.
As reported last month, Nagambie welcomes former WAFl, Tatura and Shepparton United midfielder Joel Sofi in 2014, as well as Tommy Stevens.
Several players have returned to the club after missing all or most of last year, including Willie Tranter, Steve Barber, Paddy Rattray and Daniel Hall.
Trent Muir and Jason Shiels are fitter than for a long time after overcoming serious leg injuries and the likes of Nathan Fothergill, Riley Bazeley and Jayden Gleeson are likely to get extended runs in the senior side.
Hamish Winter-Irving and Adam Bourke are still possibilities to play — the former more likely than the latter — while the outs include Brent Le Cerf (Seymour), Mitch Sanderson (Tatura), Grant Connors, Phil Cubbin and the retired Sam Collins.
Nagambie has had a quiet pre-season as far as games go, its only outing being a round-robin series at Inglewood recently which it won comfortably.
But that outing proved something else, which will be crucial to its chances this season — best-and-fairest Mick Shiels appears to have come back as good as ever.
The midfield maestro was in awesome form at times last season — a home-and-away game at Stanhope and the elimination final against Violet Town were two that stick in the memory — and he was similarly so at Inglewood.
‘‘He was unbelievable,’’ Sullivan said.
‘‘He played all three games in the midfield without much rest and would have had 80 touches. He looks like he’s going up from what he did last year.
‘‘He’s so strong if you push him real deep forward he’s a hard match-up because he’s got real good speed and strength, and it’s hard to get a defender with both of those.
‘‘I feel that Michael’s workload won’t have to exceed last year and hopefully we can preserve him. He plays 80 to 90 per cent of games solely in midfield without any rest.
‘‘Opposition sides can’t just set up on him though, they’ll have to watch others as well.’’
And those will include Tyrone Muir, who Sullivan said seemed improved on a breakout 2013.
‘‘He’s had another good pre-season. He’s realised that fitness and endurance are key components in football and with 20 per cent improvement and the likes of Tommy Stevens, Trent (Muir), Danny Haysom and Jack Williams that’s going to give us some real options in the midfield.’’
Trent Muir was a revelation at Inglewood and he and Jason Shiels are the fittest they’ve been for some time after overcoming serious leg injuries. They’ve been among those to shine during the pre-season.
With Rattray in the side as a key forward, Haysom and Williams will be able to played almost anywhere, while Barber can rest up forward when Mickey Bradbury does the rucking duties.
‘‘A couple of months ago I would have said depth was a question mark but now with (Tranter and Hall) coming back and with the young players having proved themselves to be thereabouts and up for senior selection most weeks I’d say that side of it is looking good.’’
So what are the goals?
‘‘We want to be better than where we finished last year,’’ Sullivan said.
‘‘Any coach would be lying if they didn’t say they wanted to finish top two, and it’s a massive advantage because you can allow yourself to play a couple of games into a grand final instead of (more). Murch went in fresh last year and it showed.’’
Nagambie has been one of the powerhouses of the KDNL in recent seasons but it looks like it will take a big effort for the Lakers to reach those heights in 2014.
Player-coach Caitlyn McPhee, who will also take on the B-grade role, has some juggling acts to perform.
Out from last year’s side which made the finals are former league medallist and club best-and-fairest Gemma Barry, Tegan Gent, Amy Dobbie and Mahony Fothergill, with the latter stepping up to the GVNL with Euroa.
It has left McPhee with a core squad of just seven players — herself, Sarah Shiels, Kayla Shepherd, Katie Sullivan (the wife of football coach Linc, who is making a comeback), Kate McCrae, Chanelle Paulke (back from Euroa) and Clancey Loughnane (up from under-17s, which she is still eligible for).
Some other potential players have not yet committed, while others might be elevated from B-grade, however that is also light on numbers.
‘‘We’re pretty short on senior numbers and pretty packed with juniors this year so we’ll probably also bring some of the 17s up if we feel they’re strong enough to handle the physical side of it,’’ McPhee said.
‘‘They’re jam-packed with talent but we don’t want to wreck them for junior netball as well.’’
Despite all that McPhee believes it will be a ‘‘big year’’.
‘‘We played together for the first time in a practice match against Inglewood, which we lost by two and it was a good game considering that,’’ McPhee said.
McPhee herself could rotate between shooting and stopping goals, depending on other combinations.
Next week: Avenel.
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