Nearly 60 new faces to debut in opening round

ALMOST 60 new faces will debut with their Hampden Football Netball League clubs in tomorrow’s season-opening round.

The league’s 10 clubs last night named a total of 58 new players after another big pre-season of recruiting.

Port Fairy, after a productive summer, picked eight players who weren’t part of last year’s campaign for tomorrow’s clash with arch rival Koroit at Victoria Park.

The Seagulls, looking to improve on last year’s ninth placing with two wins and a draw, included former Collingwood AFL player Jaxson Barham for his first match, along with former VAFA league best and fairest winner Aaron Shields and dual Panmure premiership-winning full-forward Gary Robinson. Key position player Jaise Coleman, Northern Territory recruit Lloyd Stockman and elusive half-forward Xavier McCartney were also named along with Ash Rendell and midfielder Mick Sheehan, who both missed last year because of long-term injuries.

But a hamstring injury to pre-season match-winner Robbie Hare at training last night and the unavailability of ruckman Adam McCosh has left the Seagulls’ stock of talls low.

Grand finalist Koroit will be a vastly different side to the one that was defeated by Warrnambool in September, with seven additions, including the return of ruckman Nathan Meade from a long term injury and recruits, Matthew Buck from North Warrnambool Eagles and Russells Creek defender Scott Bristol.

Portland will roll out its much-hyped recruits, Magarey Medal winner Luke Crane and another star midfielder in Jake Dignan, among seven new faces, for its clash with Terang Mortlake at Hanlon Park. New coach Jake Myles is also part of the line-up, which features three debutantes stepping up from within the club.

Opponent Terang Mortlake is blooding three first-gamers, including Mortlake pair Dylan Wareham and Ben Finnerty. Key signings, forwards Chris Bant and Sam Moloney and midfielder Corey Rounds have also been included to boost the Bloods.

Youth will dominate the sides for tomorrow’s Cobden versus Hamilton Kangaroos match at Cobden.

The Bombers will debut two talented 16-year-olds in Christian Koroneos and Paul Pekin but their key forward recruits, Otway Districts’ full-forward Chris Paatsch and centre half-forward Bart Phillips from East Point in Ballarat will be keenly watched.

The Kangaroos have a smattering of experienced players in their line-up, including new coach Jarrod Holt, who crossed from Portland, former interleague representative forward Brad Thomas, twins Sam and Charlie Youngman and another set of brothers, Josh and Tim Meulendyks.

North Warrnambool Eagles and Camperdown will field familiar-looking sides in their clash at Bushfield. The Magpies will unveil five new players, including Colac midfielders Sam and Luke Cardinal and high-marking centre half-forward Jack Hickey.

The Eagles have four new players, including Portland recruit Hamish Withers, Panmure dual premiership midfielder Jye Bidmade, South Warrnambool utility Ben Mugavin and Luke Williams. But they couldn’t consider last year’s skipper Tom Batten, who is out with an ankle injury, diminutive goal sneak Jarryd Lewis and new captain Herb Barlow, who are both unavailable.

South Warrnambool will begin its campaign under new coach Matthew Monk with seven new players when it faces defending premier Warrnambool at Reid Oval on Sunday.

The Roosters named two teenagers to make their senior debut, Isaak O’Rourke and Dom Moloney, among seven fresh faces. Warrnambool will field seven players who weren’t part of last year’s premiership. Half-back Michael Threlfall and teenagers John Paulin (South Rovers) and Luke McLeod (under 18.5s) will make their senior debut.

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