Finals aim locked in

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 08-Apr-2016

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FINALS hopefuls Marong and Newbridge will go toe-to-toe in round one of the Loddon Valley Football Netball League this weekend at Riverside Oval.

The Panthers and Maroons have both undergone some serious changes ahead of 2016, including Damian Lock taking the reins at Malone Park.

Matt Dillon will again coach Newbridge and the Maroons have lost the likes of Angus Fortune, Rhys Ford, Jordan Gilboy but have also added significant depth to their list.

Marong, along with Lock, has picked up Eaglehawk’s Justin Bateson and Ryan Wellington, former Heathcote District Football League best and fairest winner Josh Gitsham, Lance Brown, former Michelsen medallist Shannon Millward and ruckman Justin Hynes.

“We’ve done really well in terms of our recruiting, we have been able to pick up some quality experienced players,” Lock said this week.

“I think with the amount of talented young guys we have we can fast-track their development by bringing some experience in.

“The club already had a really good core of players, so I think if those guys can take the next step and we can bring the young players along, we’ll be capable of playing some really good footy.”

Marong was under-18 premiers last season and also featured in the reserves grand final, highlighting the depth at the club.

Lock, who says he will pull the boots on “five or six times” says although he would love to start the year off with a win, a loss would not be disastrous.

“We know we are going up against a good side in Newbridge, who are probably coming from a similar position as us in terms of trying to make up some ground on the ladder,” he said.

“It is always good to start with a win because round one is a long time coming and we are confident that we can come away with a good result, but if we don’t we will just keep chipping away and improving.”

Bridgewater will start the season as the shortest priced premiership favourite in the state according to one bookmaker.

Despite losing Daniel Connors, the Mean Machine picked up former Golden Square premiership coach Rick Ladson, as well as returning players Zac East and Alex Pollock.

New Pyramid Hill coach Brad Fawcett is up against it in his first match, taking on the Mean Machine with what looks on paper a weakened list.

Mitiamo has brought in new coach and former Ron Best medallist Justin Maddern as well as former Shepparton Swans forward Tyson Sidebottom and his brother Mitch.

The Roos take on Inglewood in their season opener, with the Blues set to improve in the club’s 140th anniversary year. Inglewood has won two of the last three opening matchups between the sides. 

Calivil United has added to its depth, including key forward Braydan Knox, and kicks its campaign off against  YCW, which is set to continue its rebuild through youth under Murray Collins and new co-coach Daniel Francis. 

Bears Lagoon Serpentine has the bye to open the season and is struggling for numbers through the preseason after an exodus of players.

Senior football games get under way at 2.15pm on Saturday.

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