JAMES Fary has one overriding reason why he’s excited about the start of the 2014 Warrnambool and District Football Netball League season.
“This would be my first pre-season I haven’t been injured,” the Merrivale forward told The Standard, ahead of round one on Sunday.
“I’ve always done the pre-seasons but I’ve always been injured once or twice. This is the first one I’ve got through unscathed.
“(In the past) I’ve had a few little niggles, I did my quad once, broke a thumb and last year I had to get my appendix out two weeks before round one.” The injury-free run, a welcome change for one of the top young goalkickers in the league, is cause for optimism for Fary and Merrivale — but not the only one.
The side, under first-year coach Karl Dwyer, has conjured some of the recruiting coups of the off-season and enters the campaign as a premiership threat.
Koroit premiership player Dwyer was the first arrival. Seamus Blake and Thomas Lenehan have also crossed from Victoria Park.
But its the key-position recruits who give the first indication Merrivale can improve on its first semi-final exit of last season.
Rhys Raymond, Joe Woonton and, particularly, Jet Dowie provide the Tigers with something which they have lacked — height and strength up forward.
Their presence means Fary, who led the club goalkicking last season with 36 from 14 matches, could push further up the ground.
Fary, 22, said the recruits had generated positivity at Tigerland: “They’ve all come in and not tried to take over but put their two bob in where they’ve had to.”
He said Dowie, one of the genuine full-forwards in the league, would give the side structure which would ease the goalkicking burden on himself.
“At the minute Jet is just getting over his knee issues from last year. He’ll play out of the square a bit more with the bigger body,” he said.
“And I’ll get pushed up the ground a bit more. But I’m not too fazed, I’m happy to play wherever.”
With that in mind, Fary has put much work into his running power, centring his pre-season on strengthening his core and legs.
He was one of the best players at the pre-season competition at Friendly Societies’ Park in February and hits round one in good shape.
The Tigers’ campaign starts against Allansford on Sunday. South Rovers and Russells Creek follow before the Good Friday showdown with Old Collegians.
Making finals is the first goal and while hopes are high, Fary knows his side has much to prove at the pointy end of the season.
“The year when Jack (former coach Stephen Kelson) passed away (2012), we finished fifth and under performed,” he said.
“Last year we did well to get to third but we haven’t won a final for three or four years. We’re confident we can make finals at this stage.
“But there hasn’t been any talk of a premiership or anything seeing as we haven’t performed very well in finals.”
In other matches to open the WDFNL season, reigning premier Panmure will unveil its flag against Timboon Demons at Panmure.
Nirranda and Old Collegians will meet at Cobden in a match which pits two former Cobden teammates and now coaches against each other.
Aidan Cole has taken on the Blues’ top job while Daryl Beechey has done likewise at the rebuilding Warriors.
Dennington plays East Warrnambool at Dennington and Kolora-Noorat plays South Rovers at Noorat.
Deakin University meets Russells Creek at D. C. Farran Oval in the other match, the first of five at the Mortlake ground for the Sharks.