HDFNL Season Preview | Recruiting spree unleashed by many clubs

THERE have been plenty of arrivals and departures as Bendigo Bank Heathcote District Football Netball League’s prepare for the 2023 footy season.

Among the big moves was reigning premier Lockington Bamawm United luring Stacy Fiske from Huntly to be senior coach.

Fiske takes charge of a powerful team that was led by Brodie Collins to grand final glory.

In two stints as Huntly coach a highlight for Fiske was the Hawks’ grand final appearance in 2013 against the Lockington-Bamawm United Cats.

LBU has retained the bulk of its 2022 premiership-winning team.

Among the recruits for the Cats are key forward Max Johnson from Kangaroo Flat, Kia Coatsworth and Ben Holman.

Departures from Lockington-Bamawm include Marcus Angove to Eaglehawk, Jarod Bacon to Anglesea, and Joss Howlett to St Albans.

Key players for LBU include ruckman and dual Sam Cheatley medallist Tyler Phillips, Jesse Collins, Lachlan Atherton, Nathan and Trent Bacon, Riley McIvor and Rhys Woodland.

It’s a change to the coaching structure of Mount Pleasant as it strives to bounce back from grand final defeat.

A Michelsen medallist and premiership star in his time at Golden Square, Adam Baird steps up to be playing senior coach after two seasons as assistant coach.

The Blues appointed long-time footy coach Darren Walsh to a new role as director of coaching.

The Blues have brought in skilful mid-forward Mitch Rovers from Kangaroo Flat, but will be without ruck-rover Billy Mahony who has crossed to Maryborough Rovers, and Jesse Tuohey to Noosa.

Mounts also has to replace big forwards Travis Baird to Charlton and Dean Tydell now at Broadford.

Those who played crucial roles in the run to the ’22 grand final included Bryce Hinneberg and William Wallace in defence, gun forward Ben Weightman, ruckman Chris Down, and Daniel Whiting.

It’s a coaching change at Colbinabbin as midfielder Jed Brain moves into the hot seat after the Julian Bull-coached Grasshoppers were third last season.

Those on the transfer list to Colbo include Connor Aldous from Huntly, Oscar Crilly, and the aptly-named Jai Carn to wear the green and gold.

The Grasshoppers will be without key position player Matt Riordan who has crossed to Marong, Lachlan Ezard now at Bell Park, and midfielder Todd Clarke to Rushworth.

James Brain kicked 46 goals for Colbo last season and will play an important role, along with the likes of Laine Fitzgerald, Luke Moore, David Price, Ben Southam, and Hadleigh Sirett.

White Hills has landed some big name recruits to build on last year’s fourth placing.

Jack Fallon stays on as coach for ’23 and is joined by Jake Pallpratt as co-coach.

A Henderson medallist as fairest and best in the Ballarat Football League with Lake Wendouree, Ben Taylor bolsters the White Hills midfield.

A formidable attack is strengthened by the arrival of the classy Kaiden Antonowicz from South Bendigo who earned a Ron Best Medal as the Bendigo FNL’s leading goalkicker on 76 goals in 2018.

Stung by last year’s loss to White Hills in an elimination final,  North Bendigo has added some more premiership-winning experience.

Key recruits for the Rob Bennett-coached Bulldogs include Jake Hall from Strathfieldsaye Storm, and Rhys Healey who was best afield in Eaglehawk’s grand final victory in 2007.

Also back at the kennel are Ben Knight and Brodie Thomson who played in the 2019 grand final win against Colbinabbin.

Other recruits for the red, white and blue include Pat Bogers, Lachlan Furness, Jordan Quirk, Billy Robertson and Layton Ross.

The Bulldogs also have the likes of Aarryn Craig, Jordan Ford, Storm Giri, Ryan Alford, Manny Thalasinos and Nic  Waterson who are hungry for more success.

Just a win away from qualifying for last year’s finals, Heathcote shapes as being a serious contender for the top five.

Second-year coach Andrew Saladino has welcomed the Wallan trio of Callum Birch, Corey Grindlay and Lachlan Inness to the Saints’ home at Barrack Reserve.

Another gun recruit is midfielder Liam Jacques back with the Saints after stints at Bridgewater and Golden Square.

The Dylan Friedberger-coached Elmore has bolstered its ruck stocks through the signing of Jarrad Kyne and Daniel Russell from Rochester which frees up the classy Dylan Gordon to play as a key defender.

Other signgings for the Bloods include Mychael Baker from Bridgewater, Sam Archard, Nash Hocking, Nathan Kay and Jacob Styles.

It’s a new-look coaching structure at Huntly as Harry Whittle and Jayden Cordy team up as co-coaches of the Hawks.

Whittle’s return from Newbridge where he won a Harding Medal as fairest and best in the Loddon Valley FNL is a huge coup for Huntly.

The attack is bolstered by the inclusions of Brodie and Jackson Fry and Lachlan Wilson from Kangaroo Flat.

A former captain of the Hawks and gun goalkicker in his time at Pyramid Hill, Braidy Dickens is also back in the brown and gold.

Other recruits for Huntly include Ben Daley, John Harvey, Daniel Harrison, Harry McCormick and Tom Paterson.

Departures from Strauch Reserve include Jay McDonald to coach Maiden Gully YCW Eagles, Tyler Miles to the Eagles, Jaydon Cowling to Charlton, Orion Downing back to Bears Lagoon-Serpentine, and Mitch Christensen to Koondrook-Barham.

Kudos to Shannon Keam who takes on the senior coaching role at Leitchville-Gunbower.

The Bombers have endured a tough run in recent years.

A huge boost for the red and black is the return of key forward Tyler Jones from Cohuna Kangas.

The Bombers also regain Jye Keath from La Trobe University in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.

Among those to have left LG are forward Blake Azzopardi to Moulamein.

The Heathcote DFNL season starts on April 15.

A highlight will be the North Bendigo and Mount Pleasant showdown on the Bulldogs’ turf at Hibo Hotel Oval in Atkins Street.

Huntly takes on Elmore at Strauch Reserve.

Colbinabbin and Heathcote clash on the Grasshoppers’ ground at M.J. Morgan Reserve.

Leitchville-Gunbower is at Leitchville Recreation Reserve to meet White Hills in the duel of the Bombers and Demons.

Lockington Bamawm United has the bye.

The Cats will unfurl the 2022 premiership flag on April 22 against North Bendigo at Lockington Recreation Reserve.