Your one-stop guide to Hampden league football in 2018

MAKING THEIR MARK: These three footballers are expected to play key roles for their respective Hampden league sides in 2018, according to their bullish coaches Michael Sargeant, Matt O'Brien and Levi Dare.
MAKING THEIR MARK: These three footballers are expected to play key roles for their respective Hampden league sides in 2018, according to their bullish coaches Michael Sargeant, Matt O'Brien and Levi Dare.

The Standard’s JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY casts an eye over the Hampden league football clubs ahead of the weekend’s season launch.

EARNING HIS WINGS: Camperdown footballer Riley Arnold won the Magpies' best and fairest last season and is expected to improve again in 2018. Picture: Morgan Hancock

EARNING HIS WINGS: Camperdown footballer Riley Arnold won the Magpies' best and fairest last season and is expected to improve again in 2018. Picture: Morgan Hancock

CAMPERDOWN

2017 finish: Sixth

Ins: Fraser Lucas (Myrtleford), Luke Mahony (Southern Mallee Giants), Nick Bateman (Woorndoo-Mortlake), Jason Robinson (Werribee), Patrick Fairhead (Werribee).

Outs: Jordan Bain (Queensland), Daniel Seehusen (retired), Marcus Hamilton (NTFL), Mitchell McLaughlin (Rokewood-Corindhap), Troy McLaughlin (Rokewood-Corindhap).

Player to watch: Riley Arnold, Lachie Bone and Charlie Lucas. “They are all in that 40-50 game bracket and I think they’ve got enough senior footy under their belts now to really take that next step as senior footballers.” – Phil Carse

Coach’s comment: “We want to be playing in September and not watching from the sidelines, so that’s certainly our goal. I think we can be better at staying in games for longer and not going up and down with our intensity which is something young teams tend to do a lot. I think we’re reaching a maturity level where we can keep our intensity higher for longer.” – Phil Carse

Our prediction: Ninth. Hard to see where the Pies’ scoring power will come from, although small pressure forward Patrick Fairbank could help. Bain, Seehusen and Hamilton are three quality omissions. Impressive youngsters such as the Bone brothers, Josh and Lachie, will give supporters reason to smile.

FLYING HOME: Cobden swooped on Paul Hinkley in the off-season, luring him back to the Bombers after a stint in the Geelong league. Picture: Rob Gunstone

FLYING HOME: Cobden swooped on Paul Hinkley in the off-season, luring him back to the Bombers after a stint in the Geelong league. Picture: Rob Gunstone

COBDEN

2017 finish: Third

Ins: Daniel Watson (Redan), Tim Horan (Newtown and Chilwell), Paul Hinkley (Newtown and Chilwell), Bronte McCann (Anglesea), Dominic Dare (Simpson).

Outs: Jahd Anderson (Ocean Grove), Trent Reed (South Fremantle), Joe Dare (knee reconstruction), Leigh Evans (Dennington), Brody Mahoney (Central Districts), Ryan Smith (Timboon Demons).

Player to watch: Jesse Williamson. “He’s been a good player for a couple of years now but I think he’s ready to become one of the better players in the comp.” - Levi Dare

Coach’s comment: “We’re a very good attacking side but we can also be scored against. We did leak a few too many goals, especially against the good sides, so we’ll definitely look to have more defensive pressure all over the ground.” - Levi Dare

Our prediction: Fourth. Quality additions have offset quality omissions but will it be enough? Boast two of the best big men in the competition in Levi Dare and Paul Hinkley and will again be around the mark.

DEFENSIVE PILLAR: Jandre Slabbert is expected to boost Hamilton Kangaroos' back six. Picture: Christine Ansorge

DEFENSIVE PILLAR: Jandre Slabbert is expected to boost Hamilton Kangaroos' back six. Picture: Christine Ansorge

HAMILTON KANGAROOS

2017 finish: Wooden spoon

Ins: Tim Meulendyks (Central Districts), Tyrone Ross (overseas travelling), Hugh Douglas (Harrow-Balmoral), Charlie Nield (Hawkesdale-Macarthur), Jandre Slabbert (Harrow-Balmoral), Sam Brewer (Harrow-Balmoral), James Cleaver (Harrow-Balmoral), Christian Howlett (Dartmoor), Sean Nippress (Cavendish), Josh Mawson (Port Fairy), Dylan Long (Central Kimberley), Allan Martin (Newcomb), Darcy Russell (Coleraine), Brad Thomas (Port Fairy).

Outs: Tom Feely (Glenelg), Jarrod O’Brien (Central Districts), Sam Quinn (overseas), Brad Thomas (Port Fairy), Cooper Henson (Laharum), Thomas Scott (Avondale Heights).

Player to watch: Tyrone Ross. “He is a really important pick up for us. He’s got very good awareness, he’s got a basketball background as well so his agility and movement across the ground and reading of the play is a terrific strength of his, and he’s a team player, motivator and resource for the young kids.” - Matt Dunn

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot more depth and the experience within the group is something that I haven’t had in the first two years so we’re hoping that will make the difference with bigger bodies when games are on the line.” - Matt Dunn

Our prediction: Eighth. A big off-season recruiting drive should help get regular wins on the board in 2018. Could rise higher but an unknown quantity at this point.

SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS: Koroit footballers Lachie Rhook and James North are hoping to be a part of another Saints' premiership in 2018. Picture: Morgan Hancock

SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS: Koroit footballers Lachie Rhook and James North are hoping to be a part of another Saints' premiership in 2018. Picture: Morgan Hancock

KOROIT

2017 finish: Premiers

Ins: Todd McLean (Merrivale), Daniel Roache (Hawkesdale-Macarthur), Levi Nagorcka (injury), Rick Dolphin (Queensland).

Outs: Isaac Templeton (Nirranda), Heath Brennan (South Warrnambool), Marcus Darmody (North Ballarat City), Joe McLaren (retired), Ethyn Zimmer (retired), James Gow (Bell Park).

Player to watch: Levi Nagorcka. “He was looking like being an A-grade player a few years ago and then had his back-to-back shoulder reconstructions. He is pretty exciting.” - Chris McLaren

Coach’s comment: “Motivation has never been any issue for them. They find motivation for different reasons - some because they’ve missed out, some because they’ve played in one and want to play in another one.” - Chris McLaren

Our prediction: Premiers. The strong get stronger. A well-oiled machine which still deserves the mantle of the one to beat. A fully fit Will Couch will cause headaches in attack.

REBELS WITH A CAUSE: South Warrnambool's Jed Henderson, Isaac Thomas, Ethan 'EJ' Harvey, Ben Annett and Emmanuel Ajang will play for TAC Cup club Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Picture: Justine McCullagh-Beasy

REBELS WITH A CAUSE: South Warrnambool's Jed Henderson, Isaac Thomas, Ethan 'EJ' Harvey, Ben Annett and Emmanuel Ajang will play for TAC Cup club Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Picture: Justine McCullagh-Beasy

SOUTH WARRNAMBOOL

2017 finish: Fourth

Ins: Heath Brennan (Koroit), Sam Kelly (Grovedale), Xavier Beks (Merrivale), Tim Brown (Newtown and Chilwell), Ben Dalton (St Albans), Jaylen Porter (North Warrnambool Eagles).

Outs: Mar Gattek (Port Fairy), Brent Moloney (Queensland), Louis Herbert (South Barwon), Olle Lee (South Barwon), Tom White (retired), Scott Maddern (retired), James Edmonds (Anglesea), Travis Parsons (Waubra), Jock Blair (injury).

Player to watch: Ethan ‘EJ’ Harvey. “His growth has been terrific. He’ll play midfield-forward and we’ll probably increase his minutes from the past couple of years through the midfield.” – Mat Buck 

Coach’s comment: “The last couple of years we might have tapered off towards the end of the year but I think this year we’ll great stronger and stronger with each game we play, especially with blokes coming back from long-term injuries.” – Mat Buck

Our prediction: Fifth. Could be a case of opponents getting better rather than the Roosters slipping back. Injuries in the off-season hurt – they might not play their best footy until mid-year.

LEARNING TO FLY: North Warrnambool Eagles are expecting a strong campaign from Sam James. Coach Graeme Twaddle says James impressed in the pre-season. Picture: Morgan Hancock

LEARNING TO FLY: North Warrnambool Eagles are expecting a strong campaign from Sam James. Coach Graeme Twaddle says James impressed in the pre-season. Picture: Morgan Hancock

NORTH WARRNAMBOOL

2017 finish: Fifth

Ins: Brady King (Noradjuha-Quantong), Zac Bussell (injury).

Outs: Rory Taggert (Sturt), Ben Fleming (Warrnambool), Matt Dennis (South Rovers), Louis Kew (Panmure), Tim Condon (Panmure), Jaylen Porter (South Warrnambool), Taylem Wason (Gordon), Zac Urquhart (Grovedale), Ben Williams (South Rovers).

Player to watch: Jordan Dillon and Sam James. “From the older brigade, Jordan’s had a super pre-season, and I think from the younger brigade Sam James.” - Graeme Twaddle

Coach’s comment: “Just having a full list to pick from I think is going to be great for North Warrnambool, just because we’re a versatile side, we have players who can play in a variety of positions so this year we should be able to throw things around a bit to make things happen. Having Adam Wines, Dylan Parish, Kory Howlett, Sam Doukas, Tim O’Brien and Zac Bussell fit – most of those guys are walk-up senior players.”

Our prediction: Seventh. A finals regular which has flown under the radar in the off-season. Boasts top-end players and impressive juniors and could yet surprise despite pundits writing them off early.

MIDFIELD BOOST: Portland recruit Tom Sharp will play a key role for the Tigers in 2018. He has spent time at VFL club Footscray. Picture: Christine Ansorge

MIDFIELD BOOST: Portland recruit Tom Sharp will play a key role for the Tigers in 2018. He has spent time at VFL club Footscray. Picture: Christine Ansorge

PORTLAND

2017 finish: Ninth

Ins: Tom Sharp (Footscray), Tom Hernan (year off), Tim Hiscock (Westerns).

Outs: Jake Edwards (Avondale Heights), Keegan Gray (Werribee), Matt Kelly (Alvie), Kyle Anson (Westerns), Nathan Haylock (Westerns), Kye Taylor (Port Macquarie), Hayden Telfer (Heathmere), Lochie Huppatz (Geelong West-St Peter’s).

Player to watch: Aaron Shepherd and Taylor Murrell. “They’ve just matured, they’ve got bigger bodies now. ‘Shep’ played TAC Cup most of last year and ‘Taz’ has done most of the pre-season with the Rebels this year as well. I think they’re ready to step up to the senior grade and really dominate and have some good midfield minutes.” – Luke Crane

Coach’s comment: “We just want to have a really good, fun, enjoyable year and hopefully get a few wins along the way. Who knows what can happen I guess when a young side is enjoying its footy, you only have to look at Richmond.” – Luke Crane

Our prediction: Last. Lack depth after a host of key departures. The inclusions of Crane and Sharp will at least add a sprinkle of class.

BRIGHT FUTURE: Port Fairy is bullish about Josh Dwyer's ability. The teenager was the youngest footballer to play in the 2017 Hampden league grand final. Picture: Rob Gunstone

BRIGHT FUTURE: Port Fairy is bullish about Josh Dwyer's ability. The teenager was the youngest footballer to play in the 2017 Hampden league grand final. Picture: Rob Gunstone

PORT FAIRY

2017 finish: Runner-up

Ins: Matt Pitt (Leopold), Mar Gattek (South Warrnambool), John Bell (Heywood), Jaise Coleman (NTFL), Lachie Glare (Hawkesdale-Macarthur), David West (Hawkesdale-Macarthur), Lachie Chapman (Laverton).

Outs: Sam Rudolph (retired), Guy Phelps (North Ringwood), Ed Delany (AFL Queensland), Robbie Hare (Allansford), James Vickers (Hawkesdale-Macarthur).

Player to watch: Josh Dwyer and Matt Pitt. “Josh is an exciting talent and he had a taste of senior football last year and played in the grand final and we expect that experience will further his development and Matt is a very good footballer and we look forward to his season." - president Ashley King

President’s comment: “I think the top five will be a little bit stronger and we certainly hope to be competitive and push towards the top three.” – Ashley King 

Our prediction: Runner-up. Kept list intact when it was expected to splinter and will be better for the inclusion of Matt Pitt in the middle. A major threat.

BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Terang Mortlake recruit Jordie McKenzie is excited to be home after time in the AFL and SANFL systems. Picture: Morgan Hancock

BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Terang Mortlake recruit Jordie McKenzie is excited to be home after time in the AFL and SANFL systems. Picture: Morgan Hancock

TERANG MORTLAKE

2017 finish: Eighth

Ins: Colin Garland (Melbourne), Jordie McKenzie (North Adelaide), Joel Moloney (Kolora-Noorat), Stephen Staunton (overseas), Mark Clissold (Kolora-Noorat), Nick Couch (Springbank), Alex Moloney (Leopold),

Outs: Dominic Kenna (Darwin), Tom Arundell (Darwin).

Player to watch: Alex Moloney. “He’s so versatile –  he can play every position on the ground. Last time he played for us, in the second half of the year he played ruck-rover and he’s six-foot-four. Going away for two years playing a high level in GFL, he’s going to come back to the league a pretty good player.” - Michael Sargeant

Coach’s comment: “We’ve recruited well but we’re under no illusions, we only won six games last year so we were a fair way off the mark. These blokes coming in are going to give us a lot of improvement but I think we’ll see more improvement from some of our other players because they were young last year and had a lot of pressure on them and it’s going to free them up a bit.” - Michael Sargeant

Our prediction: Third. The big improver. Anything less than a top-three finish would be disappointing after a successful recruiting drive. Expect Jordie McKenzie to run amok.

FRESH FACE: Luke Cody has impressed with his commitment to training since arriving at Warrnambool in the off-season. Picture: Rob Gunstone

FRESH FACE: Luke Cody has impressed with his commitment to training since arriving at Warrnambool in the off-season. Picture: Rob Gunstone

WARRNAMBOOL

2017 finish: Seventh

Ins: Luke Cody (Narre Warren), Ben Fleming (North Warrnambool Eagles), Kurt Lenehan (year off), Josh Dean (Warrnambool basketball), Jacob Whabba (Aberfeldie).

Outs: Luke McLeod (Avondale Heights), Nick Alexandrou (East Warrnambool), Rob Bright (Merrivale), Dylan Cox (South Rovers), Otto Opperman (Barwon Heads).

Player to watch: Jordan Foott. “He’s good a good fitness base, probably a bit fitter than he was last year, and he’s stepped up as a good leader as well around training.” - Matt O’Brien

Coach’s comment: “To be very hard at the contest is one of the goals we’ve set ourselves and to maintain consistency across four quarters. It’s been a terrific off-season, everyone is in a really positive frame of mind, the attitude to training has been excellent and everyone has really embraced any opportunity to do hard work knowing it will help them achieve their goals throughout the year.” - Matt O’Brien

Our prediction: Sixth. A proud club determined move on from a poor 2017. A fit Darcy Graham, Tim O’Keeffe and Sam Cowling automatically lifts their chances of winning.