The Standard's journalists are adapting to a period with minimal regional sport amid the coronavirus pandemic. Nick Ansell, Justine McCullagh-Beasy, Sean Hardeman and Brian Allen are eager to talk sport via The Commentary Box.
JUSTINE: Footy seasons in the south-west don't kick off for six months but already, after a year off due to COVID-19 complications, interest is building. Clubs are busy recruiting with Ricky Henderson, straight out of the AFL, landing at South Warrnambool this week. The Roosters had recruited well entering 2020 with players such as Josh Saunders, James Hussey and Joe Dalton returning and Liam Mullen, a premiership player at Bacchus Marsh, joining on. How do you think they will fare in 2021?
NICK: South will be very hard to beat. It's an interesting one with South Warrnambool - they've had scores of talented players over the past few years but just haven't quite been able to break through. I think they'll be very competitive this time around though because the younger players who'll make up the Roosters' bottom-end will have progressed again and any side with players like Henderson, Hussey, (Louis) Herbert and Saunders is going to be a tough task. I think Koroit will be a fascinating story in 2021. They've been on top for so long and with South and North Warrnambool Eagles only getting stronger, it'll be interesting to see how Chris McLaren tackles the upcoming season. The Saints have managed to get a former AFL player in Tim McIntyre back which is only going to help, too. Who do you think the big improver will be?
BRIAN: I've enjoyed chatting to Hamilton Kangaroos coach Gerard FitzGerald since he's been at the helm. He brings plenty of experience and cares deeply about his role. The Roos finished sixth with eight wins in 2019 so they were competitive and have room to improve. I'm excited by what Jason Rowan will bring to Warrnambool. Got to watch him closely in the Warrnambool and District league on his way to more than 100 goals last year. Would be great to see him bring that form to the Hampden league. Interested to see what Ben Kenna can do for Terang Mortlake. He's coached multiple premierships with Kolora-Noorat about a decade ago and is a well-respected football person in the area. Reckon he could help the Bloods get off the bottom-of-the-table.
He's coached multiple premierships with Kolora-Noorat about a decade ago and is a well-respected football person.Brian Allen on Ben Kenna
NICK: I agree regarding Hamilton Kangaroos and FitzGerald, Brian. I think the mark of a brilliant coach is one who can improve the players at his disposal. It will be interesting to see how that goes for them. The thing I like about Ben Kenna is he's just a no-nonsense coach who will get the best from players. Portland recruited well for 2020 so it'll be interesting to see if they carry that momentum forward into 2021.
SEAN: I feel the COVID break will help a number of teams. Hunger will be at an all-time high as a year off footy would have driven a lot of the players insane with anticipation of when they can chase a premiership next. It's also given coaches time to really prepare for a new season instead of finishing and immediately returning to pre-season training. Will be a very even competition in 2021.
JUSTINE: I think it's important for the competition to have the eastern sides - Camperdown, Terang Mortlake and Cobden - as strong competitors. Likewise Portland and Hamilton Kangaroos. You just have to look back at the 2018 grand final when the Magpies almost overcame Koroit to see how much support there is in that market. Everyone expects the three Warrnambool sides to always be thereabouts and powerhouse Koroit falls into that category too. Port Fairy has had its ups and downs but has become a finals regular. The Seagulls have a strong and passionate following waiting for that elusive second premiership too.