CAN anyone end Koroit's stranglehold on the Hampden league footy scene? The Standard analyses how each club will stack up for 2022.
Ins: Jarrod Evans, Zac Anderson, Ash Royal
Outs: Fraser Lucas (Cairns), Matt Field (Noosa), Billy Arnold (Noosa), Riley Arnold (Noosa), Will Rowbottom (Palmerston Magpies), Jack Robinson (Bacchus Marsh), Jack Williams (Bacchus Marsh)
Player to watch: Zach Sinnott. A hard-running wingman who managed a solid block of senior footy in 2021, the university student will likely take on more of an important role with several key departures. He and former Western Jets outside midfielder Judah Dundon are sure to cause opposition headaches in 2022.
Coach's comment: "We still think our spine is OK and with the young guys we've been able to blood over the past few years, we think we're in a pretty good position." - Neville Swayn
Prediction: Seventh. The Magpies haven't shied away from the fact they've lost a lot of experience but there's genuine belief the younger players they've blooded will stand up to the rigours of a full season of senior footy. They've retained a strong spine and will use their top-liners including Sam Gordon, Cam Spence, Gus Gordon, Brendan Richardson and Dundon to their advantage.
Ins: Josh Worboys (year off)
Outs: Tyler Murnane (Panmure), Jesse Williamson (Colac), Josh Woods (South Colac), Mark Marriott (Hatherleigh), Ricky Sullivan
Players to watch: Grady Rooke. Suffered an injury-plagued 2021 with a broken wrist but has impressed new coach Dan Casey through the pre-season. Has stepped up and lifted his leadership credentials as well.
Coach's comment: "It's going to be exciting to see a few of the kids playing on some of the best players in the Hampden league. We're going to give them jobs to do. We're not saying we'll finish anywhere or on top or anything like that because we just don't know. But we're looking forward to it." - Dan Casey
Prediction: Tenth. The Bombers will be well-coached by a leader well-respected throughout the Hampden league but are expected to field a very inexperienced side in 2022. Paul Pekin and Jack Hutt are strong players at this level but it'll be a season of development at Bomberland.
Ins: Nathan Fall (Cavendish), Josh Pepper (Branxholme-Wallacedale), Andrew Pepper (Leopold), Mick McMeel (Glenthompson Dunkeld)
Outs: Lachie Waddell (Newtown and Chilwell, Geelong VFL)
Player to watch: Darcy Russell. Kangaroos coach Hamish Waldron has described Russell, a tall forward option, as looking as fit as he's ever been. The talented tall booted 18 goals from 11 games in 2021 and will team with players like Noah Uebergang and Hugh Douglas in a bid to run riot in the forward 50.
Coach's comment: "We're looking forward to the season, especially after the past couple of seasons. We've had a couple of practice matches and I've been really happy with how the boys have performed." - Hamish Waldron
Prediction: Sixth. There'll be a lot to like about Hamilton Kangaroos in 2022. Expect a fit side capable of causing serious headaches for opposition with a passionate and smart playing coach in Waldron. The loss of Lachie Waddell will hurt but the addition of the Pepper brothers will add a layer of class. Could push for finals if it can turn Melville Oval into somewhat of a fortress.
Ins: Harry Crone (Strathfieldsaye), Jyron Neave (Merrivale)
Outs: Todd White (Geelong), Clem Nagorcka (Geelong), Jayden Watson (Penshurst)
Player to watch: Mac Petersen. The former Greater Western Victoria Rebels talent has been around the traps for a little while at Victoria Park but according to coach Chris McLaren has been one of the Saints' best through pre-season. McLaren believes Petersen has "taken the next step with his footy".
Coach's comment: "You don't go into any season thinking or knowing where you're (going to finish) but we've kept the majority of the group and added a couple in so we feel like we'll be pretty hard to beat again. But so will the other teams. I think we're expecting to be quite competitive." - Chris McLaren
Prediction: Second. It feels stupid to suggest the Saints won't win it all again after what they've been able to achieve across the past decade but North Warrnambool Eagles certainly seems up for the fight in 2022. A hugely talented outfit which has been able to blood youth through while it's on top. It'll be intriguing to see how Koroit approaches the season with still some of the best players in the competition on its list.
Ins: Nathan Vardy (West Coast Eagles), Scotty Mortar (Grovedale), Jaylen Porter (Merrivale), Tate Porter (Merrivale)
Outs: Jordan Dillon (Queensland), Sam James (South Barwon)
Player to watch: Ben Kellett. The smooth-moving big man impressed in 2021 despite sharing his playing time between the Eagles and NAB League outfit Greater Western Victoria Rebels. His mobility and ability to spend time in the ruck and forward will give coach Adam Dowie plenty to work with in 2022.
Coach's comment: "We've done some intra-clubs and we had a lot of our younger guys play five or six games through November with the under 23 series. We feel like we'll be as ready as we need to be come round one versus Port Fairy." - Adam Dowie
Prediction: First. Dowie spoke a lot about momentum in the early off-season and what new recruits bring. He felt the club was carrying it into 2022 but reinforced his belief the club just needed to fill specific holes rather than a wide-scale recruiting campaign. It feels the Bushfield-based club has all the ascendancy heading into the season and the addition of former West Coast and Geelong ruckman Nathan Vardy is sure to be a major boost through the forward line and midfield.
Ins: Lochie Huppatz (Geelong West Giants), Marcus England (Westerns), Lachie Goldby (Westerns), Marty Curtis (Westerns), Zach Stutchbery (Tyrendarra),
Outs: Jake Edwards (Melbourne), Harold Pritchard (university)
Player to watch: Jackson Dunlop. A youngster who burst onto the scene in 2021 and offered a good spark through the forward line for the Tigers. Will be keen to add to his promising goal total from 2021 - 17 from 12 games - and become a damaging medium forward option for the Hanlon Park-based club. Will be fit after a season of basketball with the Portland Coasters.
Coach's comment: "Coming off the back of last year with things looking pretty positive for us, I think there's been a couple of guys coming back to the club. It's looking like we're heading in the right direction. It's always hard to know where you're sitting and I try not to think about it too much. Round one will go by and everyone thinks that's the standard of where teams are at for the whole year but the guys' attitude has been good and the pre-season has been pretty good." - Jarrod Holt
Prediction: Fifth. Jake Edwards will be replaced by Lochie Huppatz, a talented onballer who has spent time in the Geelong league honing his craft. The Tigers electrified the Hampden league in 2021 with a youthful, corridor-using brand of footy and have spent pre-season building their kicking in a bid to execute their game-plan to a higher standard. Portland will be highly competitive.
Ins: Kaine Mercovich (North Adelaide), Tom Sullivan (Northern Territory), Jakobe Gibb (Wodonga Raiders)
Outs: Shane Savage (Pines), Luke Hynes (Panmure), Adam McCosh (retired), Tyler Hetherington (travelling), Jack Hearn (travelling), Lochie Gunning (travelling), Jimmy Conlan (travelling)
Player to watch: Hamish Gleeson and James Duncan. The Seagulls have been rapt with the duo's progression through the summer and will give them key roles in 2022. Coach Winis Imbi said the duo are learning well and are "in good nick" leading into round one against North Warrnambool Eagles.
Coach's comment: "We're really about growth and we could've really bottomed out last year and had a mass exodus. Internally we feel like we're doing things well. It hasn't resulted in a bigger wins list at the moment in terms of win-loss, but we're trying to train with intent and educate our boys with the method that we'd like to employ in our footy. We're trying to give role clarity as well." - Winis Imbi
Prediction: Ninth. The Seagulls have some serious top-end talent in the form of Kaine Mercovich, Tom Sullivan, Josh Dwyer, Andy McMeel and Matt Sully but are still building their depth. That top end of six or seven talents will ensure it doesn't finish bottom but it'll be another year of growth and development.
Ins: Jack Dye (Eaglehawk), Trent Williamson (Wodonga), Dylan Weir (Melton Centrals)
Outs: Paddy Anderson (Warrnambool), Archie Stevens (Carlton VFL), Fraser Marris (Bell Park), Marcus Herbert (Leopold).
Player to watch: Jed Henderson. The young talent has been the Roosters' big improver across pre-season, winning the club's two-kilometre time trial and drawing praise from teammates and coaches. Has a bright future.
Coach's comment: "We've always been pretty open about wanting to play an attractive brand of footy and I think now Reid Oval is back and we will play finals there you'll find a lot of sides might change certain aspects. We have always felt our best footy is conducive to good conditions. We are maintaining the stuff we've done in the last couple of years." - Mat Battistello
Prediction: Third. The Roosters will surprise a few and could claim a big scalp on their day. The addition of Dylan Weir up top will aid Shannon Beks and they're still strong through the midfield and in the back-half of the ground. The question remains - how close can the Friendly Societies Park-based club get to North Warrnambool Eagles and Koroit?
Ins: Ryley Hutchins (Kolora-Noorat)
Outs: Chris Baxter (Kolora-Noorat), Ryan O'Connor (Kolora-Noorat)
Player to watch: Ryley Hutchins. The dynamic forward was originally going to play with North Warrnambool Eagles but has opted to don Bloods colours instead. He booted 40 goals from 13 matches in the Warrnambool and District league this past season and will likely become an important option in a forward-midfield rotation for the Bloods.
Coach's comment: "There's a number of kids we had in the under 23 competition who haven't had a taste of senior footy yet so that was good for them to get a taste and be exposed and realise they are good enough and will be good enough to compete at Hampden league level this season. We showed some good signs at different times in 2021 but there's still room for improvement. It's a fine line sometimes between winning and losing and you've just got to get that balance in what we do and the confidence to get some better results at the end of the day." - Ben Kenna
Prediction: Eighth. The Bloods had a number of youngsters emerge in 2021 - full-forward Will Kain was among them - and will be young again in 2022. The youth are capable of playing a good style of fast, open footy on the transition and counter as evidenced in the under 23 Let's Talk Cup and it'll be a year of development under a well-credentialed coach in Kenna.
Ins: Paddy Anderson (South Warrnambool), Damien McCorkell (year off), Otto Opperman (Barwon Heads)
Outs: Austin Steere (Uni Blacks), Wil Fleming (Noosa)
Player to watch: Paddy Anderson. The dynamic forward has represented Victoria Country but hasn't played a lot of footy over the past two seasons. Coach Ben Parkinson said Anderson was enjoying himself at the club and felt that would be conducive to good footy from the former Rooster. Will add to a talent-packed forward line with Sam Cowling and Jason Rowan and will be capable of running through the middle as well.
Coach's comment: "Our fitness has improved. We've focused really on ball movement, skill-based sort of stuff and with that, we've added a bit of fitness in there. Coming out of 2020, in that non-season, a lot of our boys did running. We rolled into pre-season with that base behind us but it ended up backfiring as it didn't equate to footy fitness. We've gone back to that shorter style of running and we're really pleased with how it's all looking." - Ben Parkinson
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