LVFNL Season Preview – Panthers face new challenge as hunted

THE hunter for so long, Marong Panthers will be the hunted as they pursue back-to-back senior footy premierships in the 2023 Bendigo Bank Loddon Valley Football Netball League season.

It’s been 33 years since Marong began as a campaign as reigning premier.

There have been few changes to the Linton Jacobs-coached Panthers line-up which dominated last season’s grand final against Bridgewater.

Marong will start hot favourite to stay as the Valley’s number one team, but can expect fierce opposition from the likes of Bridgewater, Pyramid Hill and Mitiamo.

The fans of Bears Lagoon-Serpentine, Maiden Gully YCW, Newbridge, Inglewood and Calivil United are craving for more success.

Among the clubs extremely active on the recruiting front have been BLS, Calivil United, Inglewood, and Newbridge.

Key recruits at Marong are ruckman Michael Bradbury from Quambatook, and key position player Matt Riordan from Colbinabbin.

The Panthers also welcome Matt Grant back to Malone Park after a successful run at Mitiamo.

Other newcomers include William Beagley and Jake Landry.

The reigning champs have lost premiership winners Justin Hynes to Calivil United, and Adam Ward to Wandella.

A formidable line-up includes key forwards Brandyn Grenfell and Kain Robins, captain Corey Gregg, Richard Tibbett, Cory Jacobs, Jimmy Gadsden and Ben Gregg.

Marong is on Maiden Gully YCW’s turf for a night clash with the Eagles on April 1.

The Rick Ladson-coached Bridgewater marked a brilliant finals series as it fought its way from the elimination to make the grand final.

Although the season did not end the way the Mean Machine players and supporters wanted it to, there’s plenty to look forward to.

Those on the transfer list to Bridgewater are Austin Alcock and Charlton Hindle.

The Mean Machine faces a huge task without premiership-winning star Andy Collins who has returned to Sandhurst and will play a key role in the Dragons’ quest for the Bendigo FNL premiership.

The form of Harry Donegan, Emile Pavlich, Cameron Ross, Josh Martyn and Callum Prest will be crucial to the Machine’s run.

A highlight of the first round on April 1 will be Bridgewater against fierce rival Mitiamo at John Forbes Oval.

It’s been 72 years since Pyramid Hill won a senior premiership.

The Bulldogs have been a serious contender in recent years, but are yet to claim the silverware.

Nathan Fitzpatrick starts another year in charge at Mitchell Park.

Newcomers for the Bulldogs include Declan Slingo from Castlemaine, and Jesse Sheahan from South Bendigo.

The Bulldogs also welcome back Zac Alford, a premiership winner with North Bendigo in 2019, and also Jaryd Wishart.

Also on the transfer list to Pyramid Hill are Jayson and Lachlan Carroll, Lachlan Dillon, Dylan Goulding, Darcy and Thomas Hetherington, Trent Leech and Tom McGregor.

The Bulldogs have the bye on April 1 before starting their season at Calivil a fortnight later.

It’s a new-look coaching panel at Mitiamo as Jon Varcoe takes charge of the Superoos.

A win-loss tally of 10-6 meant the Roos finished the last home-and-away series in third place, but the run was ended after defeats in the qualifying and first semi-finals.

A key signing for Mitiamo was former Box Hill Hawks midfielder Michael Barnes.

The Superoos also regain 2019 premiership player Dylan Clohesy.

Also on the transfer list bound for John Forbes Oval are Mitchell and Ryan Byrne, Tom Campbell, Halen Danziger, Kobe Galvin, Lincon Hocking, Liam Jones, Zachary Morrison, Duncan Proud, Ashley Smith, Rhys Varcoe, and Daniel Walters.

After a fifth placing in his first season as coach, Justin Laird will be keen to lead Bears Lagoon-Serpentine to at least the second week of the finals.

The Bears have bolstered their squad through the signing of Callum Draper from Golden Square, and Kangaroo Flat’s Louis Mott.

Key defender Kyal Zass has crossed from Eaglehawk and will play a crucial role as the Bears will be without Josh Walsh who has taken on an assistant coaching role at Wycheproof Narraport.

Other new players for BLS are Clay and Taylor Anstee, Thomas Clarke, Charles and Craig Davies, Orion Downing, Sean Hanson, Nash Kemp, and Kevin Walton.

The Bears kick off their campaign at Inglewood’s Dissy Machinery Oval.

It’s a tough initation to Jay McDonald’s coaching stint at Maiden Gully YCW as the Eagles face Marong under the Marist College Oval lights in Maiden Gully on April 1.

McDonald has joined the Eagles after a successful stint at Huntly in the Heathcote DFNL.

Assistant coach will be Damian Wust who joined the Eagles midway through last season.

Wust has plenty of experience from stints at Eaglehawk and Kangaroo Flat.

After a disastrous start to last season, Maiden Gully won four of its last seven matches.

Key recruits for the Eagles include former Eaglehawk and Huntly player Tyler Miles, key forward Sam Harvey, Bryce Franzini from Kangaroo Flat, and Kyle Franzini from Kerang.

Others on the transfer list to the nest included Riley Bacon, Jett Beagley, Mana Clark, Thomas Durston, Jax Noonan and Ryan Sarkady.

A premiership-winning coach with the club in 2017, Anthony Dennis returns to the Demons.

After just two wins in 2022, Calivil United will be fired up.

A key signing was ruckman Justin Hynes from Marong.

The Demons also welcome back Henry Miller, and have Jack Maher and Thomas Piazza to don the blue and red.

Game one for Calivil United is at home against Newbridge.

“Newbridge has appointed co-coaches in Sam Gale, playing, and Daniel Smith, non-playing.

Both have achieved great success at Harcourt in the Maryborough Castlemaine competition.

Smith coached the Lions to back-to-back premierships in 2006 and ’07.

Key recruits for the Maroons include Angus Fortune, Matt Giri, Ryan Hipworth, David Romer and Dylan Stevens.

Victorious in three of four matches to start last season, Inglewood then endured a tough run.

There was plenty to like about the young Blues squad which will again be coached by Darrell Billett.

Inglewood has also gained Fergus Payne as playing assistant coach.

Players on the transfer list to the Blues included Sam Dorevitch, Darcy Hogan, Jack Lovett, Callum March, Cameron Martin, Keelan Payne, and Nick Silvestro.

The Blues meet the Bears at Inglewood in round one.