Hampden league coaches share their thoughts on the upcoming 2018 season

UNHERALDED: Koroit footballer Taylor Mulraney could win the 2018 Maskell Medal, according to North Warrnambool Eagles coach Graeme Twaddle. Picture: Rob Gunstone

UNHERALDED: Koroit footballer Taylor Mulraney could win the 2018 Maskell Medal, according to North Warrnambool Eagles coach Graeme Twaddle. Picture: Rob Gunstone

NORTH Warrnambool Eagles coach Graeme Twaddle says his left-field Maskell Medal tip is a barometer for the all-conquering Koroit juggernaut.

Twaddle believes premiership Saint Taylor Mulraney can win the Hampden league’s top individual award in 2018.

The experienced mentor said Mulraney was an underrated but crucial cog in the Saints’ midfield.

Twaddle was the only coach to pick Mulraney for the Maskell Medal among a straw poll of nine of the 10 coaches.

Port Fairy coach Daniel Nicholson received ...  votes, Terang Mortlake recruits Jordie McKenzie and Stephen Staunton, 2017 winner Manny Sandow and his South Warrnambool teammate Josh Saunders and Koroit’s Tim McIntyre got nods too.

Twaddle said Mulraney was a left-field choice who deserved credit for his role in the Saints’ ongoing success.

“He’s probably underrated. I don’t know how many votes he’ll pick up,” he said.

“He’s certainly influential in that Koroit side. He’s still only around that 24 or 25-mark but he’s learned his craft really well I think.

“He can play a variety of roles for Koroit. He’s a bit of a barometer. I think when he’s up and about, the whole of Koroit is up and about.

“I think he’s a ripper. He’s pretty unassuming – he gets a lot of outside footy that maybe the umpires don’t pick up on.”

Twaddle expects one of North’s own – the versatile Adam Wines – to be the league’s leading goal kicker in an open field.

Wines, who suffered serious burns in an accident in 2017, will play predominately forward.

“He’s been training since November 15, so he’s super fit,” Twaddle said.

“He’s a mid-sized forward. He’s a really good lead-up player but one-on-one strength-wise he’s really good too and he’s generally an efficient kick, so if he gets half a dozen shots at goal, he’ll kick four or five.”

Cobden key forward Nick Harding received two votes, as did mercurial Koroit premiership player Will Couch.

Couch was limited to two senior games, including the grand final, in 2017 due to injury.

It’s anticipated he will help cover the loss of last season’s leading goalkicker, the North Ballarat City-bound Marcus Darmody.

Staunton, Warrnambool’s Sam Cowling and Portland’s Jay Moody also received support in this category.

Terang Mortlake was the clear favourite in the big improver category after a productive off-season netted them two former AFL footballers in Jordie McKenzie and Colin Garland.

The Bloods received six votes, while Warrnambool and Hamilton Kangaroos were next best with two each.

All three sides failed to make the finals last season.

Two coaches picked two clubs in this category, highlighting the expected evenness of the season.

Koroit was well backed to extend its premiership streak to a league record five, with six coaches picking the Saints. Beaten 2017 grand finalist Port Fairy (two) and Terang Mortlake (one) are also considered legitimate chances in September.

Graeme Twaddle

Graeme Twaddle