Excitement is in the air as the Warrnambool and District league looks to finally put COVID-19 in the past and forge forward into a brighter future.
The Standard looks at how each club is placed entering round one.
Ins: Lachlan Lusher (Portarlington), Zach Jamieson (South Colac), Jonty Roberts (North Warrnambool), Isaac Fowler (Camperdown), Brent Fedley (Terang Mortlake), Jack McGee (Colac), Nanda Murdila (Merrivale), Jordi Dwyer (Terang Mortlake), Damien Wynd (Penshurst), Luke Nowell (Irrewarra-Beeac)
Outs: Justin Fedley (South Rovers), Blair Oakley (Dennington), Noah Keane (Panmure)
Players to watch: Cats coach Tim Nowell expected the club's new recruits to make an impact but said collectively as a team "we want to be successful, and to do that we need 22 players to turn up" to achieve success in 2022.
Coach's comment: "We have to change our game plan. The game's changed and it's fast moving with accurate kicking and good foot and hand skills. We'll put a fair bit of focus on moving the ball quickly and the guys need to turn up round one and be competitive. Win, lose or draw, you've got to be competitive." - Tim Nowell
Prediction: Eighth. The Cats have made some changes to the list but expect the side to once again look youthful and keep rebuilding for another season. Improvement won't necessarily come from wins and losses but from a gradual improvement of the game plan and to foster more competitiveness each week.
Ins: Daniel Threlfall (Nirranda), Blair Oakley (Allansford), Josh Stapleton (Caramut), Tommy Noonan (Old Collegians), Sam Lee (South Warrnambool), George Serra (Koroit), Marcus Craig (returning), Knox Ratu (Nirranda), Jack Noonan (Koroit), Tom Lee (Old Collegians), Nelson McLaren (Old Collegians), Messiah Kennedy (Woorndoo)
Outs: Jack Johnson (North Warrnambool), Steve Smith (retired)
Players to watch: Dogs coach Ben Thornton described recruit Jack Noonan's pre-season as "unreal", while ruckman Reggie Barling has "hardly missed a pre-season session, is as fit as he's ever been and will benefit from the experience last year". Bronte Baker is also expected to go "one step further" after a superb 2021 season.
Coach's comment: "The big one is probably our pressure. We were in a lot of games last year and when our pressure was up we were able to score and play really well. When we have the ball, we want to keep it, and when the opposition has it, we want to get it back off them." - Ben Thornton
Prediction: Ninth. There are a lot of changes at the Dogs under Thornton as the club looks to put some tough years behind them and forge forward with a new-look group. It's expected to be a youthful round one outfit and one likely to take some time to click. More competitiveness is the expectation for 2022 but it's very much a rebuilding year.
Ins: Lucas Boyd (Leopold), Jeremy Larcombe (Leopold), Chris Baxter (Terang Mortlake), Ryan O'Connor (Terang Mortlake), Brad Williams (Geelong Amateurs)
Outs: Luke Justin (Leopold), Harry O'Sullivan (South Barwon), Ryley Hutchins (Terang Mortlake), Brad Johnson (retired)
Players to watch: Power coach Nick Bourke highlighted two kids, Luke McConnell and Nick Hoare as ones to keep an eye on and said Joel Dylan enjoyed "a super pre-season" and would make a big impact after showing significant promise throughout 2021.
Coach's comment: "We played great footy in patches last season, and it was difficult with the stop and start, and having players in Melbourne, so it had its challenges, but it gave us an opportunity to play some juniors and others that may not have got a chance. We certainly saw it as a positive for the future of the club, and we'll continue to work with that, and improve as a club." - Nick Bourke
Prediction: Second. Just the one loss last season but overall a terrific campaign from Nick Bourke's group who will once again be in the premiership hunt and have enjoyed a strong pre-season. Lucas Boyd and Jeremy Larcombe instantly make this side look even more well-rounded on paper and with an influx of kids ready for senior footy, positions will be tough to obtain. A top-three finish for the Power beckons.
Ins: Liam Nagle (Koroit), Matt Hausler (Koroit), Brad Bell (Koroit), Troy McLaughlin (South Warrnambool), Colby Rix (Old Collegians), Kyden Jarvis (returning)
Outs: Tate Porter (North Warrnambool), Jalen Porter (North Warrnambool), Jyron Neave (Koroit)
Players to watch: Coach Josh Sobey said captain Jack Gleeson was like a virtual new recruit and looks forward to seeing him in "full flight" while small forward Jack Neave and Luke Byrne have both "put in a ton of work in the pre-season" and will be tough players for opposition sides to handle.
Coach's comment: "It was very disappointing we didn't get to finish last year but we're super excited, we feel like we're through that COVID barrier and the season is fast approaching. We've just been focusing on us and how we want to play and defend, as well as introducing these guys into the group." - Josh Sobey
Prediction: Fourth. Some strong recruits enter the Tigers' fold in 2022 and while a couple have departed the Josh Sobey-coached side will be buoyed by strong performances in 2021 and expect to be a top-four contender again. With added depth and a taste of what their best footy can look like in 2021, there's every reason to think this group can slip under the radar and challenge strongly.
Ins: Ashley Rosolin (Timboon Demons), Josh Folkes (South Warrnambool), Ethan Harvey (South Warrnambool)
Outs: Daniel Threlfall (Dennington), Knox Ratu (Dennington), Jesse Dalton (Panmure), Scott Carlin (Geelong VFL)
Players to watch: Coach Brayden Harkness described wingman Dylan Philp as an exciting player who has had "a big pre-season and will come on in leaps and bounds". Recruits Ethan Harvey and Josh Folkes (coming off the Hampden reserves league goalkicking award) are expected to bring a point of difference according to Harkness.
Coach's comment: "We've done some work on ball movement, but for us, we're working on our forward structure not having a big key target. That's caused us to be more dynamic, and have a few smalls, and we were able to win against some quality sides with that in place." - Brayden Harkness
Prediction: Premiers. COVID-19 cruelly cut short a remarkable undefeated 2021 season in which the Blues were the toast of the competition, capping off a stunning few seasons of on-field results. The challenge is to back it up as clubs scramble to catch up, but there's no doubt the group is primed for yet another successful season. With the same core group of players, and some handy additions, look out for Brayden Harkness' side to lead the way.
Ins: Mitch Riddell (Natimuk United), Ben England (Westerns), Sam Davis (Westerns), Connor Duro (Heywood), Declan Gleeson (Koroit), Aidan Grant (Warrnambool), Harry Hall (Hawthorn Amateurs)
Outs: Colby Rix (Merrivale), Michael Pritchard, Tommy Noonan (Dennington), Matthew Petherick (Caramut)
Players to watch: Coach Ben van de Camp pointed to several players ready to take the next step: "Someone like Harry White, he's ready to take his football to the next level, Connor Barby was our ruckman last year and we feel he'll get better, and Jacob Brooks has been a really solid midfielder for us but losing Colby Rix we think there's a real opportunity for him."
Coach's comment: "We're a developing team, we can have all the theories and plans but until we get out and test ourselves against opposition it's hard to know. There will be things that work well and things we'll constantly have to be refining in our game but that's football. We won't be overly tall this season so we know we want to use the ball really well and be a good kicking team." - Ben van de Camp
Prediction: Seventh. It looms as an interesting season for Ben van de Camp's side who understand the need to properly develop the team but to keep a focus on winning games of football. Ultimately, the Warriors have been busy building depth within their ranks so will be hoping to build on the five wins in 2021 but a similar ladder placing is the most likely scenario. One thing to expect from the Warriors is an exciting brand of football - this team will want to run teams off their toes after putting plenty of focus on ball movement with a smaller side.
Ins: Wilbur Pomorin (South Warrnambool), Noah Keane (Allansford), Matt Kenny (Western Eagles), Jesse Dalton (Nirranda), Harry Turnham (St Albans), Josh Norton (Spotswood), Tyler Murnane (Cobden)
Outs: Kallan Melican (moved away), Sam Loveday (moved away)
Players to watch: Bulldogs coach Chris Bant said Zeke Reeves would "make an impact and has been training well", also pointing out Jacob Moloney as another strong performer on the track over the off-season. Isaac Sinnott has also been "flying" according to Bant.
Coach's comment: "We finished fourth obviously last year, which to be honest we were probably a little disappointed in. We could have finished third if a few things went our way, but we lost a few we shouldn't have. We've recruited well, kept the majority of our playing list, so we expect to be right up there again." - Chris Bant
Prediction: Third. The Dogs look stable, hungry and ready to pounce ahead of the 2022 season and will fancy their chances of really clawing up the table after finishing fourth. Little goes out and an abundance of quality comes in - particularly Wilbur Pomorin - so Chris Bant's group will know it has the cattle, and the depth to compete at the top. But can the side maintain consistency throughout the season?
Ins: Billy McPhee (returning)
Players to watch: Taylem Wason has enjoyed a strong pre-season according to coach Danny Chatfield, while Xavier McCartney has "found a new lease on life and is an older head ready to take on leadership roles" so expect him to fire. Chatfield also identified leading goal kicker Jyran Chatfield as one to watch and said co-coach Dylan Herbertson was looking fit.
Coach's comment: "It's not about being super aggressive, it's about mentoring and getting the guys fit and ready for round one. Really two years without footy, it's about blokes being around their mates again. There's a bit of an unknown." - Danny Chatfield
Prediction: Fifth. The Creekers could be set to fly under the radar this season and with little movement in or out of the senior list appear stable and ready to push for finals. Chatfield's group missed out on fifth by percentage last season so aren't far away and if some early wins can be obtained it'll give the group belief it can be a major player this season.
Ins: Tim Ryan (South Warrnambool), Justin Fedley (Allansford), Ben Oates (Warrnambool), Beau Turland (Warrnambool), Josh Bell (returning), Simon Tindall (returning), Brendan White (Lorne), Craig Britten (Natimuk United), Patrick Higgins (Moyston Willaura)
Outs: Patrick Drake (Caramut), Kieran Timms (retired)
Players to watch: Lions coach Adam Matheson said boom recruits Tim Ryan and Justin Fedley would add enormous firepower and class to the list. Youngster Sam Hodgins has "had our best pre-season" and will continue his development this season.
Coach's comment: "The biggest area of improvement is what we do in our forward 50, so now that we've got a few taller players down there we're building some structures around that. "It is important that the quicker we move the ball off half-back the more one-on-ones you create and catch out defenders." - Adam Matheson
Prediction: Sixth. As sides look to keep improving around them, the Lions have identified areas of improvement in order to stay in the finals race. The forward structure is an interesting one and with added firepower gives the group an element of depth, so if the ball use up the ground can be fast and give the forwards opportunities, Matheson's group will be dangerous on their day. Added depth across the lines and improvement from the kids will also help the cause.
Ins: Cam Mitchell, Adam Doak, Sam Negrello
Outs: Josh Worboys (Cobden), Rhys Zieglaar (Simpson), Ash Rosolin (Nirranda), Connor Cardwell (Terang), Darcy Tribe
Players to watch: Demons coach Marcus Hickey identified reigning best and fairest winner Jordan Fowler as someone "who will take his game to the next level" as he spends more time in the midfield. Emerging 16-year-old Isaac Bedgood is "super exciting" according to Hickey and will debut this year.
Coach's comment: "2022 is certain to be a rebuilding year. With the loss of a number of experienced players numbers will be tight, we will certainly be making junior development a priority. With an exciting group of 16 to 18 year olds at the club, getting games into this group is definitely a positive for the club." - Marcus Hickey
Prediction: Tenth. It's very much going to be a year of experimenting, finding their feet and playing as many kids as possible to fast track the development of the list. Expect a few tough results but competitiveness first and foremost should be the aim. There is some nice kids at the club, Isaac Bedgood one of them as alluded to by Hickey, so it's certain there will be some exciting moments as they get a taste of senior football.
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