BFNL Season Preview | Old faces among new at many clubs

THERE are some old faces among the new as Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League clubs build up for the start of the ’23 footy season.

It’s been a busy time on the recruiting front, especially at Sandhurst and Eaglehawk as they strive to improve on last year’s fifth and seventh placings.

Grand finalists Gisborne and Strathfieldsaye have made changes in a bid to stay at the top.

Brad Fox takes charge as Gisborne chases back-to-back premiership victories, while the Darryl Wilson coached Storm eyes a fifth consecutive grand final appearance.

A top contender for the past few years, Golden Square again looks strong as it strives to hit back from a two-point loss to Gisborne in last September’s preliminary final.

It’s a new era for South Bendigo which has made the move from Queen Elizabeth Oval to now be based at Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval.

Sandhurst has welcomed back several premiership winners and also recruited versatile big man Bryce Curnow to be co-coach with Ash Connick.

Stung by missing the finals by percentage after a 10-8 run to be sixth, the Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton looms as a big threat to climb into the top five.

Kangaroo Flat, Maryborough and Castlemaine all have new coaches in charge.

The Roos have appointed Nathan Johns who brings a wealth of coaching experience to Dower Park.

Coby Perry steps up to be playing coach at Maryborough.

Premiership player Brendan Shepherd will be determined to mark a successful return at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve.

As reigning premier, Gisborne will be prepared for the heat.

It’s the third time in the club’s stint in the Bendigo FNL it starts a season chasing back-to-back premierships.

The Gardiner Reserve-based Bulldogs did so in 2002-03 and 2005-06.

A line-up that includes captain Pat McKenna, Braidon Blake, Flynn Lakey, Jack Reaper, Matt Merrett and Sam Graham will be tough to beat.

Those to have left Gisborne include Ethan Foreman, Kyneton; Josh Kemp, Aberfeldie; Ethan Minns, Woodend-Heskett; Matt Panuccio, Riddell;

Strathfieldsaye’s remarkable run since 2013 includes being in seven of eight grand finals and a win-loss tally of 4-3.

Key inclusions for Storm include running half-back Luke Webb as playing assistant coach.

Webb was on Geelong’s list in the VFL and also played for St Joseph’s.

A powerful attack is bolstered by the inclusion of Jack Exell who kicked 100 goals for Violet Town last season.

Storm also regains Alex Powell after stints at Tooleybuc and Bridgewater.

A triple premiership player and Nalder medallist for best afield in the 2017 grand final win, Kallen Geary has left Storm to play for Eaglehawk where his superb career kicked off.

Fergus Payne has gone to Inglewood as an assistant coach.

A formidable Storm line-up includes Michelsen medallists Lachlan Sharp at full-forward, and ruck-rover Jake Moorhead.

Golden Square has kept most of last year’s line-up which reached the preliminary final.

Christian Carter kicks off a third season in charge and has 2001 premiership winner Matt Dillon back at the club as assistant coach.

Most recent coaching stint for Dillon was in 2019 when North Bendigo won the Heathcote DFNL grand final.

Back in the blue and gold is Tom Toma from Cohuna Kangas.

A hard-at-it mid/onballer, Toma’s signing is a huge plus for the Bulldogs.

A multiple premiership winner, dual Nalder medallist for best afield in a grand final, and the 2018 Michelsen medallist, Jack Geary will again lead Golden Square.

The Dogs’ attack was brilliantly led by Joel Brett and Jayden Burke last season.

Those to have transferred from Square include Jarrod Fitzpatrick to Boort; Liam Jacques to Heathcote, and Will Thrum to Cohuna Kangas.

After marking a long-awaited finals appearance by winning the elimination, South Bendigo will be determined to keep rising.

The Nathan Horbury-coached Bloods welcome back classy small forward Steven Stroobants from Rochester.

The return of Stroobants off-sets the departure of Ron Best medallist Kaiden Antonowicz to White Hills.

Another key signing for the Bloods was ruckman Mac Cameron from Monash Blues.

The play of Brock Harvey in attack, Zac Hare, Cooper Leon, Will Allen, Braydan Torpey and Andrew van Heumen will have a major bearing on South’s run in ’23.

After a productive recruiting spree, Sandhurst could mark a rise from fifth to premier this season.

The Dragons gained Bryce Curnow who was the Nalder medallist in Strathfieldsaye’s grand final win in 2019 and played in Kerang’s premiership victory last season.

Also back at Sandhurst are Nick Stagg and Andy Collins from Kerang and Bridgewater respectively.

Another key recruit is Harrison Monk.

Gun midfielder Lachlan Tardrew is still on Collingwood’s list in the VFL, but has re-aligned with the Dragons.

The Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton again shapes as a tough opponent, especially at Tigerland.

A previous winner of the club’s goalkicking award, the classy Ethan Foreman is back in the yellow and black after premiership success at Gisborne.

Although he battled hamstring issues last season, Foreman’s skill and experience is a massive plus for the Tigers.

Kyneton has also gained another talented small forward in Thomas Quinn from the VAFA, but will be without Rhys Magin, Sunbury Kangaroos; and Guy Dickson, Leongatha.

The return of the Geary brothers, Jarryn and Kallen has generated plenty of excitement as Eaglehawk strives to fly from seventh position.

After a 207-game career with St Kilda, Jarryn Geary’s play across half-back or any other role decided by coach Travis Matheson is a massive plus for the Two Blues and the league.

Another key signing for the Borough was ruckman Connor Dalgleish from Montmorency.

Other players listed on the transfer list to Eaglehawk included Ryan Wellington from Mitiamo; Jack Daley and Jacob Greenwood from Calivil United.

Departures from Eaglehawk include Shaun Knott to Westmeadows, and Sean Williams to Rochester.

A 14th year in coaching for Nathan Johns is likely to be one of his most challenging as he takes charge at Kangaroo Flat.

Key signings for the Roos were tall defenders Jordan and Zac Rouse to join what will be an extremely young team.

Long-time number one ruckman and captain Nick Lang has made the move from the Roos to Kerang.

Others to have left Dower Park include Brodie and Jackson Fry and Lachlan Wilson to Huntly; Max Johnson to Lockington-Bamawm; and Mitch Rovers to Mount Pleasant.

For the Roos’ coaching team, players and supporters it’s not focus on what we don’t have, but we do have.

A premiership winner as a teenager with Castlemaine in 2000, Brendan Shepherd returns to Camp Reserve as senior coach.

The Magpies re-appointed Brodie Martin as senior assistant coach, while Jackson Hood tackles a new role as playing assistant coach.

Signings for the Pies included Lloyd Butcher from Waverley Blues; Tom Wilson from Marong; and David Wilson after stints at Harcourt and Maldon.

Key players for Castlemaine include Bailey Henderson, Liam Wilkinson, David Stephens, Brad Keogh, and Brodie and Jackson Byrne.

A coup for Maryborough was the signing of Joel Swatton from South Bendigo to play in the midfield and also be strength and conditioning coach.

The Magpies also regain gun onballer and previous best and fairest winner in Bailey Edwards.

Based in Darwin, Edwards played the latest Northern Territory FL season with Nightcliff.

The Tigers were beaten in the first semi by St Mary’s in a season where Edwards played 16 games and kicked 11 goals.

Edwards was among Carisbrook’s best as it finished runner-up to Harcourt in last year’s Maryborough Castlemaine District FNL senior grand final.

Players on the transfer list to the Magpies included Darcy Bond, Sam Flynn, Brodie Quinlan, and James Woods.

The Pies will be without talented on-baller Aidan Hare who has headed west from Princes Park to Peel Thunder.

Maryborough will be desperate to hit back from a winless season.