In the fifth of a 10-part summer series, The Standard looks at why Cobden fans should be buoyant about the 2018 Hampden league season.
1: Height boost
Paul Hinkley is back in red and black in a major boost to the Bombers’ premiership credentials. Second-year Cobden coach Levi Dare believes the former Vic Country representative, who enjoyed a stint at Geelong league club Newtown and Chilwell, will be a threat in the air. “To get a player like that in their prime is great,” he said. “He can go anywhere – centre half-back, centre half-forward, in the ruck. He is quite a versatile player and he’s only just starting to play his best footy I reckon.”
2: Hard yards
Nick Harding was a revelation in his first Hampden league season and is expected to be better in his second. The strong key position forward kicked 48 goals in 2017 – fourth best in the Hampden competition after crossing from Simpson. “I think he only showed glimpses of what he’s capable of, so I think if he can have a really good pre-season and work hard, he could easily be the league’s leading goalkicker,” Dare said. “The better he plays, the more games we’re going to win.”
3: Dare factor
The coach is one of the most imposing players in the competition. A three-time Maskell Medallist, Dare is a threat in the ruck and can also switch forward. He hopes his younger brother Lincoln can also elevate his game in 2018. “I am hoping for big things from Lincoln at centre half-forward. He’s shown glimpses at Hampden league level and he’s 23 now and ready to step up I reckon,” he said. Unfortunately another brother, Joe, is sidelined after undergoing a second knee reconstruction.
4: The hunger
Beat every side bar eventual premier Koroit last season on its way to a preliminary final berth. Dare is confident Cobden can take the next step, saying it “hasn’t yet reached its full potential”. “We really showed that we can match it and I think that’s the exciting thing going forward,” he said. “We’re a big show because we had a really young side last year and they’ve all got that bit more experience under their belt.”
5: Natural rise
The Bombers are bullish on their younger players including Zac Green, Patty Smith, Joel Moriarty and Jack Hammond. The inclusion of midfield duo Daniel Watson and Tim Horan, who are returning to the club, will help ease the burden on veteran Paul Foster.