Hampden contenders name their wishlists for a winning season 2014

Every football team has holes in their lists. The Standard journalist JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY finds out what type of recruit each Hampden league club would love for Christmas


2013 finish: Fifth.

Confirmed ins: Sam Cardinal (Colac, GFL); Luke Cardinal (Colac, GFL); Chester Gardner (Simpson, CDFL); Jack Hickey (Bridgewater, Loddon Valley); Jordan Briggs (Kyabram, Goulburn Valley); Aaron Davis (Queensland).
Confirmed outs: Khan Beckett (Colac, GFL); Gus Bourke (Terang Mortlake).

What we think: Camperdown, despite boasting the league’s leading goalkicker in Dan Casey, struggled in attack in 2013. The Magpies were plagued by inaccuracy and poor decision-making. For
Christmas, Camperdown needs more avenues to goal and a pinch of luck when lining up for goal too. New coach Casey believes the Pies have added depth to their forward line, giving them more dimensions and a better chance of bottling the ball in their attacking 50. Bridgewater big man Jack Hickey will play predominantly forward, while Chester Gardner and Jordan Briggs are also expected to make their marks inattack. The Pies have lost midfielder Khan Beckett but Melbourne-based Sam Chapman will travel home with a number of travelling Magpies to play.

What coach Dan Casey says: “We have recruited where the holes were. We needed speed and the skills weren’t there. Our back six will be super with Dan Baker back in and Nick Bateman and
Clinton Fitzgerald are two top key defenders. Nick
Bateman moved back and Clinton Fitzgerald’s last
game against David Haynes was exceptional. Forward line pressure is an area we have looked at. Chester Gardner is a quick halfforward or onballer and Jordan Briggs plays wing or half-forward. Jack Hickey is a tall forward option. Sam and Luke Cardinal are midfielders who can rotate forward. We didn’t have enough crumbing goals last year.”


2013 finish: Fourth.

Confirmed ins: Chris Paatsch (Otway Districts, CDFL); Nathan Hall (Gisborne, BFL); Bart Phillips (East Point, BFL). 
Confirmed outs: Levi Dare (Colac, GFL); Joe Dare (Colac, GFL); Daryl Beechey (Old Collegians, WDFNL); Adam Courtney (Simpson, CDFL); Aidan Cole (Nirranda, WDFNL); Marcus Hickey (Timboon Demons, WDFNL). 

What we think: It will be a new-look Cobden line-up next season. It's hard to see the Bombers pushing deep into the finals again, although they do have a host of talented young players including Sam Cunnington and Brendan Richardson. Will they have the same dominance out of the middle without star ruckman Levi Dare and his ball-winning brother Joe?Paul Hinkley, who is important at centre half back, can play in the ruck as can Klint Wagstaff and Bronte McCann.A key forward wouldn't go astray either, with the versatile Aidan Cole defecting to Warrnambool and District league club Nirranda.

What coach Stephen Hammond says: "(I'd like) a hard, strong onballer. Just to add a bit of class and start the play. I am very happy with the group we have got. It's going to be young, 16 to 26. It's a very exciting young group of people in Cobden. The 19-year-olds have already had three years of senior football so the young blokes are already experienced and we'll be playing younger players on top of that. Cobden won the reserves premiership last year and half a dozen of them could play in a senior side as well. We can't replace the talent of Joe and Levi Dare - they're absolute guns and we hope to have them back (some time) but there's an opportunity for ones who missed out."

Hamilton Kangaroos

2013 finish: Eighth. 

Confirmed ins: Jarrod Holt (Portland); Brad Thomas (Tyntynder, CMFL); Tim Meulendyks (Central District, SANFL).

Confirmed outs: None.

What we think: A strong-bodied key position player would complement the Kangaroos' fleet-footed youngsters. Hamilton Kangaroos played an exciting brand of football in their Hampden league debut season but were exposed for strength as they lacked enough battled-hardened bodies. New coach Jarrod Holt will give the Kangaroos another key target in attack which will help the creative Brendan Huf and Kane Uebergang, should he play up forward instead of at half back. The addition of former Hamilton coach Brad Thomas and young gun Tim Meulendyks to the Roos' midfield will help too. 

What coach Jarrod Holt says: "It's hard to say - I guess everyone wants a dominant key position player. We do have a few key position players but you can't have too many of them. I am happy with the way we're shaping up so far. The established senior players are doing the work so far and the good, young kids are showing signs. The improvement will come especially from the kids coming through the side. We'll be a little bit raw and young but that's not an excuse. We should have good depth from what I can see."


2013 finish: Runner-up.

Confirmed ins: Scott Bristol (Russells Creek, WDFNL); Nick Whiting (Russells Creek, WDFNL); Nathan Meade (returning); Liam McLaren (returning); Tim Martin (water skiing).

Confirmed outs: Karl Dwyer (Merrivale, WDFNL); Seamus Blake (Merrivale, WDFNL); Alex White (Panmure, WDFNL); Brady Purcell (Panmure, WDFNL); Ben Walsh (WA); Brad Williams (Allansford, WDFNL); James Mugavin (Old Collegians, WDFNL); Eli Barker (Old Collegians, WDFNL); Chris Chambers (Old Collegians, WDFNL).

What we think: Koroit has lost a lot of depth from its 2013 squad and the grand finalist is going to have to further develop some of its talented young players, such as Jayden Brennan, Jayden Whitehead and Tom Lynch, if it is going to push deep into finals again. Ben Dobson's playing future is unclear and if he plays elsewhere in 2014, the Saints would love another tall for Christmas to boost their key position stocks.

What coach Adam Dowie says: "What I want for Christmas is for our younger players to really step up. We think our best players are among the best players in the competition but what I want for Christmas is for our young players to A succeed and B play with some players who are nearly finished and will be fondly remembered at Koroit football club for a long time. I want them to realise how hard these guys train and learn as much as they can. We still think we have a really strong side despite our departures and we think these (young) guys cover the ground well. In the grand final we might have been exposed for a lack of pace and run."

North Warrnambool Eagles

2013 finish: Third.

Confirmed ins: Jye Bidmade (Panmure, WDFNL); Dom Barlow (Shepparton United, GVFL); Luke Williams (Koroit). 
Confirmed outs: David Haynes (retired); Jake Myles (Portland); Robbie Gregg (South Warrnambool); Joel Nestor (overseas).

What we think: Scoring potency was North Warrnambool Eagles' biggest strength in 2013. Just look at its 99-point first semi-final drubbing of Cobden for evidence of its firepower. But the Eagles have lost their two leading goal-kickers - goal sneak Robbie Gregg (49 goals) has returned to South Warrnambool and key forward David Haynes (48) has retired. Add creative midfielder Jake Myles (32) to that list too. New coach Bernard Moloney has indicated the Eagles will implore a more defence-orientated game plan next season, which could counteract the losses, but they would still love to land a handy forward in the off-season.

What coach Bernard Moloney says: "A standout forward would be a handy one for us and just for our young blokes to come through. There is a lot of promise in the young group and we've had a heap of them train. Sam McLachlan and Tom O'Leary are two standout players we have had and both will be important to us next year. Dylan Cross, Luke and Adam Wines are also impressive younger players."

Port Fairy

2013 finish: Ninth.
Ins: Aaron Shields (De La Salle, VAFA).

Outs: Sandy Robinson (Port Melbourne, VFL); James Vickers (holidays); Tom Rendell (Queensland).

What we think: Port Fairy has slowly started to fill its list with quality players - Sam Rudolph, Dylan Gunning, Sam Anson and Sandy Robinson - who will play for VFL club Port Melbourne next season - added class to the Seagulls in 2013, while boom recruit Aaron Shields comes with big wraps after a stellar career at VAFA club De La Salle. But Port Fairy still lacks depth - handful more players in the ilk of the previously mentioned would ensure the Seagulls made further ground in 2014. With Robinson and James Vickers out, the ruck and forward line need addressing. 

What coach Sam Rudolph says: "I'd say belief in our ability. It is getting there. Another thing we wouldn't mind for Christmas is a ruckman. (Pre-season) has been good so far. We've had 55 people come through which is 100 per cent better than last year. The town and people in it and the players are starting to back the club as well which is good."


2013 finish: Sixth.

Confirmed ins: Luke Crane (Sturt, SANFL); Jake Dignan (NT Thunder, NTFL); Jake Myles (NW Eagles).
Confirmed outs: Jarrod Holt (Hamilton Kangaroos); Jarrod Hayse; Jaydon Stiles (Sturt, SANFL).

What we think: Portland will boast one of the strongest midfields in 2014 with recruits Jake Myles, Jake Dignan, Luke Crane - a former Magarey Medallist - bolstering the Tigers' onball brigade. But will they have enough firepower up forward? Portland has lost its top three goal-kickers from its Hampden league debut season. Jarrod Hayse (39 majors), Jaydon Stiles (30) and Jarrod Holt (28) have all moved on. Myles is a proven goal-kicker but will hit the scoreboard through the middle. Will the Tigers' new-look midfield be enough to make up for its lack of forward depth?

What coach Jake Myles says: "A key forward who can take a few catches and kick a few goals every game is number one on the Christmas list and a fit list. Holt, Hayse and Stiles kicked goals but Beau Bentley, Marcus England and Dennis O'Loughlin, who is up and fit, and a few kids from the under 18s can play forward as well and potentially I could play more forward as well. We'll be more unpredictable than in the past. We'll get it in there enough - we've just got to keep it in there."

South Warrnambool

2013 finish: Last.

Confirmed ins: Robbie Hare (Terang Mortlake); Jesse Hanegraff (Camperdown); Scott Nicolson (South Rovers,WDFNL); Matthew Farmer (South Rovers, WDFNL); Robbie Gregg (North Warrnambool Eagles); Ben Blair (Nirranda, WDFNL); Andy Rylance (South Rovers, WDFNL); Isaak O'Rourke (boxing); Cale Jarvis; Inoke Ratu (rugby union).

Confirmed outs: Josh Walsh (Old Collegians).

What we think: There are always going to be holes to fill the next season when a team collects the wooden spoon. South Warrnambool used 2013 to blood 17 senior debutants which bodes well for the future. It will be interesting to see how they progress with another pre-season under their belts. Experience to guide them is imperative. Of their recruits, Robbie Gregg comes with big raps. He will complement the strong-marking Kym Eagleson in attack and the Roosters hope the ex-Eagle can replicate his scintillating 2013 finals form. Robbie Hare was recruited to add more height in the ruck and up forward but is still young himself. 

What coach Matt Monk says: "We are not going too bad but everyone would love a ruckman and another experienced, hardened onballer. We are considered the bottom-placed team until we're not on the bottom so until a few rounds in we're not going to know if we've improved at all. Training to date has been really good and we've had a good atmosphere. There is good spark and enthusiasm with the under 18s and under 16s. The future is bright and a lot of them are involved in the (North Ballarat) Rebels' program. There is a good vibe about."

Terang Mortlake

2013 finish: Seventh.

Confirmed ins: Chris Bant (Panmure, WDFNL); Sam Moloney (Kolora-Noorat, WDFNL); Xavier Reicha (Swan Hill, Central Murray); Gus Bourke (Camperdown); Eamonn O'Connor (Kolora-Noorat, WDFNL); Liam Venn (Kolora-Noorat, WDFNL). 
Confirmed outs: Robbie Hare (South Warrnambool).

What we think: The Bloods had two early Christmas presents arrive in the form of forward duo Chris Bant and Sam Moloney. Those two - Bant a strong key target and Moloney a clever leading forward - will complement Stephen Staunton next season. Terang Mortlake had an indifferent year but there were positives - its under 18.5s have won back-to-back flags and it showed glimpses off slick midfield transition. The ideal gift for Terang Mortlake would be consistency.

What coach Matthew Irving says: "I think we are well off for key position players at the moment, it's more about developing skill sets and (maybe) adding a classy midfielder. Nick Couch will still play for North Ballarat (Roosters) but when he's available he'll play for us. Even if we get him for three or four games it will be a big bonus. We have picked up 10 or 12 kids from the unders and we want to develop them as quickly as we can and Shane (Threlfall) has done that a lot in the past two years giving them opportunities. Now we have to finetune their skill sets and make sure we get the most out of them."


2013 finish: Premiers.

Confirmed ins: Rhys Raymond (Geelong West St Peter's, GFL); Kurt Lenehan (Bungaree, CHFL).
Confirmed outs: Will Jacobs (Queensland); Damien McCorkell (overseas), Nick Chirnside (Panmure, WDFNL).

What we think: Santa has been kind to the reigning premier. The well-balanced Blues have already bolstered their playing list ahead of another flag tilt. Rhys Raymond's return will ease the burden on undersized ruckman Andrew McCarthy, while small midfielder-forward Kurt Lenehan is back in Blue too. The playing future of Tim Hunt and Jake O'Donnell are uncertain, with work and study commitments to determine where the premiership duo play in 2014.
What coach Scott Carter says: "A guaranteed injury-free 2014 and maybe another quality midfielder and a fair share of lady luck. We only had six runs before Christmas and were really happy and had between 50 and 60 different players. I foresee an even competition next year and we'll be aiming for three in a row. I think it's only happened twice in the history of the league so there is plenty to play for."

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