By Terry Bevan
Eagles v Hawks in round one blockbuster
MIN/Man hosting RSMU at Mintaro heads round 1 of the 2016 NEFL season with the ANZAC Day game promising to be a blockbuster between the arc-rivals.
The Eagles would be still hurting after missing out on September action last year, the first time since just after the turn of the century, so this Saturday following a solid preseason Min/Man will be pumped up for the first bounce.
Back-to-back premiers, RSMU, has taken all before them over the past two years, but the Hawks might it be unsure of what to expect from the revitalised Eagles when they cross the white line on Saturday afternoon.
The 2004, ’08 and ’12 NEFL A grade premiers have been busy over the summer months building the squad with midfielder Steve Rusca joining Min/Man from Angaston.
Another two signings for the club from the Wallaroo Football Club are ruckman Nathan Wright and Chris McLean and along with a handful of colts to step-up Lachie Sandow has been burn up the track since returning from overseas.
Don’t worry, the reigning premiers haven’t been resting on their laurels, they’ve picked up former Barmera/Monash big man Justin Schahinger, Damien Hynes is back from a shoulder injury and Aaron Kempe has returned from touring, and there’s at least 10 colts pushing for selection.
Most football games are won in the midfield and this contest won’t be any exception with both teams relying on their clearances via the engine room and that’s where the locals might have the edge.
With Bill Sandow jumping out of his skin and Ryan McDermid along with new recruit Rusca teaming up in the middle there’s a good chance they’ll stretch the visiting combination of Josh Vater, Bradley Koster and Billy Nicholls.
The weather should be ideal on Saturday to kick-off the 2016 season and I don’t know if I’m thinking right, but I’m going for the team that finished fifth last year to beat the team that’s won the last two flags.
You can bet your bottom dollar that the two combatants will be ready to get it on from the opening siren and give the spectators their moneys worth, and when the final siren blows the Eagles will be just in front.
MIN/MAN BY 9 POINTS
Tigers to push Southern Saints
EUDUNDA/Robertstown makes the 170km haul to Redhill on Saturday to front BSR and I wouldn’t be it all surprised if the Tigers pushed the Saints right to the line.
The Tigers struggled to find consistently last year with players come and going around the world, but in 2016 they appear to be heading in the right direction with a more settled squad as they try and make the finals for the first time since early this century.
The Southern Saints are the club knocking on the door, they’ve been threatening to take that next step for a few years and the last two seasons they’ve had the chance to crack that inaugural flag, but both times they’ve been denied that celebration by the Hawks.
Ben Cousins has been recruited to BSR from the Crystal Brook Football Club, from the Unley Jets comes Jai De Silva, Nathan Scott has returned home from Whyalla, Simon Goss might be better after a season overseas and there are six or seven colts from last year in line for a crack at the big time.
Eudunda/Robertstown has added some more tall timber to their squad with ruckman Daniel Burgess joining from Nuriootpa, Rowan Prior and Gabe Laucke will be like new recruits for the Saints returning from knee reconstructions and Izzy Blumsom is back from the WWT Eagles.
There’s a fair bit of room to move on the Redhill oval and if a few of the younger Tigers get the chance to strut their stuff on Saturday, combined with their current runners they might just push the speed of the opposition.
Having said that the Southern Saints have built a very good blend of experience, youth and running players over the last five years and it’s that experience and toughness that should get them over the line.
The task won’t be easy for the Saints though having to organise a pack lunch and a waterbag for the long haul to Redhill for the season opener, but once the team hits the ground and finally shrug off the persistent Tigers, there’s a good chance they’ll get the job done.
EUDUNDA/ROBERTSTOWN BY 29 POINTS
South favourites at Snowtown
When was the last time South Clare defeated Blyth/Snowtown at Snowtown?
Saturday just might be the day the Demons break that drought.
The Blyth/Snowtown Cats have been the most successful A grade team in the NEFL over the past decade winning four premierships along the way in 2006, ’07, 2010 and 2013 and last year they flexed their muscles again, just missing out another grand final berth.
South Clare got better as the season wore on last year winning four games from their last six starts, taking them to six victories for 2015 and elevating them to the sixth, a vast improvement from 2014 when they took home a rare wooden spoon.
Blyth/Snowtown hasn’t worried about chasing that elusive gun recruit over the offseason, but they did get fortunate only a couple of weeks ago with Caleb Lloyd returning to the club from the WWT Eagles.
Nathan Zweck and Ashley Giles will also be around the club all year.
The Demons strengthened their list by signing up big Balaklava brothers Hayden and Justin Walker, Simon Dean joins South from the Noarlunga Football Club, Matthew Allen comes to the Demons from the Southern Eagles and there is a number of colts ready to fire-up at A grade level.
The Snowtown Oval has never been a great hunting ground for most clubs over the years with the enormous wide, open spaces it provides, but the Cats aren’t getting any younger and the Demons do have runners than can take advantage of the many manicured acres.
Adding to that advantage the visitors might have on Saturday, a very big nob at the Cats informed the press that former gun forward Jarrod Gillings, who’ll be sorely missed at the club, is getting married on Saturday.
If that’s the case, one would think after playing at the Blyth/Snowtown Football Club for 11 years there’d be a few footballers attending the left-legger’s wedding.
Maybe they’ll slip down for the reception after the footy, who knows, anyway I’m going for the Demons to kickstart 2016 with a two or three-goal victory.
SOUTH CLARE BY 15 POINTS
Fitness the key for Roosters v Rams
THE big key to the result of Saturdays 2016 round one opener between North Clare and BBH at Clare could come down to who’s got the fitness edge in the closing stages.
North Clare made a return to finals football last year after a steady rise up the ladder over the previous couple of seasons, this year the obvious goal for the club will be to build on that improvement and taking another step forward.
The BBH Rams have been spiralling down the ladder since they last tasted premiership success back in 2011, it’s a long way up from the bottom rung but after appointing a coach that’s destined to be at the helm of the club for more than one year the climb can definitely start.
There’s no doubt the Roosters will go into 2016 with a different game plan to last year having lost at least six tall players from last year, but they have recruited.
Key forward, Adam Pearce, has joined North from Wallaroo, former Fitzroy Football Club midfielder, Jarrad O’Riley, is now a Rooster and Tom Puiatti comes to North from Imperials in the River Murray League.
The Rams have been flat out with the pen and paper during the summer with Cameron Montgomerie, Jackson Gulliver, Josiah Clifford and Joseph McGuinness all signing up, Angus Wiech has joined BBH from Eudunda/Robertstown, Geoff Thompson is back after a stint at the BMW Football Club and Sam Mattey and Paddy Hill are back in the mix.
It could become a game off keepings off on Saturday with a lot of short passing by foot or hand with both teams having to play possession football, due to a lack of tall targets to go through.
If the contest is played in that manner with plenty of run to create scoring opportunities the game will turn into a long hard, slog, therefore, the team that’s got the best fitness towards the end of the marathon wins the game.
BBH BY 2 POINTS