WHETHER it be from the south, north, east or west, Strathfieldsaye Storm’s senior footy team faces challenges on many fronts in the 2022 Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League season.
After consecutive defeats in the opening two rounds of last season, Storm struck back to win 10 games in a row.
Strathfieldsaye was top of the ladder when the season was called off because of Covid.
The premiers of 2019 and top team of ’21 have retained the majority of a powerful squad in which Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary again team up as co-coaches.
Storm’s season starts on April 9 against Eaglehawk at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
Newcomers for Storm include Boe Alexander who previously played at Mallee Eagles and Bridgewater; Brady Hore from stints at Birchip-Watchem and Leitchville-Gunbower.
Also back in Storm territory at Tannery Lane are Evan Dorrington, an under-18s premiership captain; Joseph Mayes returns from Bridgewater; and Paddy Blood is also back.
The club has regained Michael Pilcher as a specialist assistant ruck coach.
A previous co-captain of the seniors and dual premiership winner with Storm, Pilcher was also a premiership-winning coach at Leitchville-Gunbower.
A major departure from Strathfieldsaye Storm’s line-up is half-back flanker/midfielder Kellan Smith who has joined his brother Matt at Heidelberg.
A 199-game stint by Kellan Smith in Storm’s colours included premiership victories in 2014, ’15, ’17 and ’19; and runner-up in ’13 and ’18.
A formidable attack is led by Lachlan Sharp, a dual winner of the Ron Best Medal for the league’s leading goalkicker, and Cooper Jones, 29 goals last season.
Major strength of Storm’s line-up is it has so many attacking options and versatility.
Golden Square achieved a 10-2 record last season and is again a team to be reckoned with.
The Christian Carter-coached Bulldogs are at the QEO first-up against South Bendigo.
Recruits for the blue and gold include Jarrod Fitzpatrick and Liam Jacques from Bridgewater.
A premiership-winner with Golden Square, Harry Donegan has headed to Bridgewater, and Zane Keighran is now with Mount Pleasant.
Both were team-mates for Bendigo United’s first XI in the Bendigo District Cricket Association’s 2021-22 season.
On the footy front, Golden Square has a powerful attack in which Joel Brett, 47 goals in 10 matches, and Jayden Burke, 45 goals, were the key targets last year.
An onball and midfield unit that includes Jack Geary, Hamish Morcom, Ryan Hartley, Terence Reeves and ruckman Matt Compston is capable of setting up many attacks.
Moved forward after dominating across half-back or a wing in previous years, Jake Thrum kicked 19 goals before last season was ended by injury in the sixth round.
The Thrum brothers, Jake and Will add plenty of running power and skill to the Bulldogs line-up.
Sandhurst’s run in 2021 was 9-2 and a forfeit by Kyneton in what would be the last round.
Ins for the Ash Connick-coached Dragons this season include Zac Pallpratt, Jake Wilkinson, Lachie Murdoch and Harrison Free.
A major blow was gun ruckman Chris Down deciding to join Mount Pleasant in the Heathcote DFNL, and Nick Stagg and Lachlan Ross have joined Kerang.
The Dragons will also be without Beau Cross who has crossed to North Bendigo.
It’s a tough first-up assignment for Sandhurst as it treks down the Calder to play Gisborne at Gardiner Reserve.
A major strength of the Dragons in recent years is it’s depth of goalkicking talent.
In 2021, Joel Wharton led the Sandhurst attack on 30 goals as Matt Thornton, 22; Oscar McKinley and Lachlan Zimmer, 19 each, were valuable contributors.
Key players for Sandhurst include experienced on-ballers Lee Coghlan, Blair Holmes and James Coghlan, the classy Alex Wharton and Noah Walsh, and defenders Sean O’Farrell and Martin Leyden.
Fourth on a 9-3 record last season, Gisborne will be confident of challenging for its fifth senior premiership in the Bendigo FNL.
The Rob Waters-coached Bulldogs have a brilliant forward line led by captain Pat McKenna, 53 goals in 10 matches last season; Jack Scanlon, 26 goals; and onballers/mids Jake O’Brien, 21 goals; and Brad Bernacki, 20.
Add in the likes of Josh Kemp, Ethan Foreman, Seb Bell-Bartels and Gisborne is capable of scoring 20-plus goals each week.
Recruits to Gisborne include Dan Davie who previously played at Kyneton and then went to Mount Pleasant.
The Bulldogs have also gained mid/forward Matt Pannuccio from Riddell.
Gisborne will be without gun defender Tim Walsh who has joined the Riddell Bombers.
The play of Flynn Lakey, joint Morrish medallist in the 2021 NAB League, Scott Walsh, Jack Reaper, Sam Graham and Trent Crosbie will be key to the Bulldogs’ run.
After a 9-3 run last year, South Bendigo will be determined to build on the momentum.
The classy Nathan Horbury stays on as playing coach and is joined by Liam Byrne and Isaiah Miller who return to the Bloods as playing assistant coach.
Byrne’s strength in and around the stoppages will be a huge plus.
Other recruits for the red and white include Benjamin Leech and Austin Long.
The club will be without key forward Sunny Brazier who has joined Hurstbridge.
After a 63-goal haul last season, Kaiden Antonowicz will again play a crucial role in the forward 50m arc, but also pushing up through midfield if needed.
Michael Herlihy kicked 20 goals last season as Cooper Leon, Ollie Simpson and Oscar White were regularly among the best.
A talented Bloods line-up includes the run and rebound off Zac Hare and Brayden Torpey from defence, skill of Joel Swatton, Tom Brereton, Brock Harvey, and younger players such as Mitch Goodwin, Wil McCaig and Tyler McLeod keen to make their mark.
The Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk will be determined to hit back after a 6-6 record last season.
Key recruits for the Two Blues include Brady Rowles who was on the Sydney Swans rookie list in 2020 and played VFL with Essendon last year.
He adds to the Mildura-links at the Borough where Lewin Davis will be a team-mate.
Also in for the Hawks are Fraser Verhay from Moama, 2018 premiership player Dillon Williams, Liam Marciano, Ethan Hewitt and Mark Storey.
Departures from Cantebury Park include Koby Hommelhoff to Wycheproof Narraport; Brenton and Sam Conforti, and Jarrod Findlay to Cohuna Kangas.
Key players in Eaglehawk’s squad include Billy Evans, Jack Dye, Darcy Richards, Oscar Madden, Joel Mullen and Sam Harper.
The Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton will be confident of improving on a 3-9 record, especially at home.
The Tigers have bolstered their defence through the signing of Mason Crozier who previously played for Rowville and Port Melbourne Colts, and also Steve Georgiou from Rowville.
Another huge plus for the club was gun on-baller Rhys Magin sticking with the yellow and black and taking on the crucial role of coaching the under-18s team.
Generating more attacking play and capitalising will be a key for the Tigers.
In 2021 the attack was led by Guy Dickson, 16 goals, and Angus Nolte, 13.
Kyneton starts a new season on Castlemaine’s turf at Camp Reserve.
The James Flaherty-coached Kangaroo Flat is another team aiming for more wins and to be more competitive after a 2-10 record in 2021.
The Roos have welcomed back Mitch Rovers who starred in the under-18s grand final victory in 2019 and then spent last season in Sandhurst’s senior team where he kicked 16 goals.
Rovers’ pace and skill will be a huge plus for the Flat in an on-ball role or closer to goal.
Other recruits to Bendigo Mazda Oval at Kangaroo Flat’s Dower Park include Mitch Collins, Darcy Kelly and Sam Barnes.
The Roos will be without Kevin Clark who has joined North Wangaratta.
Key players in the Kangaroo Flat line-up include ruckman/forward Nick Lang, Lachlan Wilson, Mitch Trewhella, Brodie Fry, Max Johnson and Jake Hywood.
The Roos start their season at home against Maryborough.
It’s a new-look Maryborough which has welcomed back Rick Andrews, a premiership-winning onballer with the Magpies in 1997 and ’99 as senior coach.
Andrews played in Sandhurst’s premiership-winning team in 2004, Charlton in ’05 and ’09, and in recent years has taken on key roles with the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in the NAB League.
The Magpies were busy on the recruiting front and have been able to gain ruckman/key forward Patrick Chard from Marcellin, Oakleigh Chargers; and Anthony Tatchell, a key backman/forward who has plenty of experience from stints at Charlton and Clunes.
Jacob Lohmann returns to Princes Park after time with GWV Rebels, North Melbourne’s VFL team, and also at Lake Wendouree.
Other newcomers for Maryborough are Ethan Ross, Spencer Wardlaw, Liam Freeman and Joshua Ross.
They join a team in which Bailey Edwards and Matt Bilton in the midfield; Jayden Hooper, Kya Lanfranchi, and key forward Jayden Templeton, 17 goals in six matches, were the stand-outs last season.
Another high for the Magpies will be fielding an under-18s team for the first time since 2016.
Brady Neill is coach of Maryborough’s rising stars.
Despite a winless run in 2021, Castlemaine has done incredibly well on the recruiting front.
The return of key forward Bailey Henderson who played for the Magpies’ juniors before heading to Strathfieldsaye Storm is a huge plus for the Don Moran-coached Castlemaine.
Other gun recruits are Zach Denahy, Tommy Horne and Brendan Josey.
The Magpies have also welcomed Kaleb McBride to join a team in which Liam Wilkinson, David Stephens and Klai Jermyn fought hard against the odds in every game last season.
There was a lot to like about the play of John Watson, Brodie and Jackson Byrne, and Callum McConachy who will have all gained a lot from the matches they contested in ’21 and from another tough pre-season.
Castlemaine had plenty of support last season and will be banking on another big turn-out for the April 9 showdown with Kyneton at Camp Reserve.
Written by Nathan Dole.