Players to Watch
The Magpies are a star-studded outfit that works hard to reach high levels of performance. Matthew Newton is one who should enjoy another strong year. He is probably under-rated in terms of his impact considering the acclaim the likes of Jon Stephens and others like Dean Nankervill have shared with him in the past. With a strong, injury-free pre-season under his belt, Newton should again be one of the premier competition players. He reads the ball exceptionally well and is a wonderful mark for a medium sized player. The captain-coach also has a penetration left-foot kick and can also work hard in defence with his physical style also a trademark of his game.
Jesse Schmidt should take the next step and could reach well be one of the best forwards on the North Coast. The youngster has that much potential it is up to him if he wishes to utilise it. He is a great build for a footballer; solid but tall and agile capable of playing across the half-forward and midfield. Like Newton, is a fantastic mark and long kick of the ball and with these attributes, he can kick a goal anywhere in the forward half.
Sawtell's hopes will hinge on their big men this season. Courtney Tune has taken over the mantle over the league's No.1 ruckman after the departure of Port's Jon Stephens. Tune was very impressive last season, controlling the hit-outs in the majority of the matches and giving the Saints' premier midfielders the best opportunity to use the ball. He gained possessions himself and should be in the thick of the action again this season.
Tristan McCormack's development in recent years has been halted by injury. Always a promising junior, McCormack has the height and agility to be a presence around the ground. Naturally talented as shown by his prowess in a variety of sports, the man known as 'Tree' will probably spend a bit of time in the forward half rotating with Tune. With more fitness and some fine-tuning on his kicking and marking, the young man should impress this year.
Darren Funston, coming off a limited pre-season, should be injury-free and as the season goes on, will be more prominent on the scoresheet. The Kangaroos' main forward has enjoyed success at a league and representative level and should again this season. The nuggety Funston with a flat and accurate delivery from his midfield will be hard to stop given his explosive leading and his ability to muscle his opponent out of the contest. He should lead from the front this season.
Brod McDonald has shown his ability when given a task by a coach. Representative coach, Rod Macpherson has had success with the solid on-baller in the past on numerous occasions. If McDonald can be disclipined enough and give greater focus to winning possessions, there is no doubt his ability will shine through. He thrives on a contest and given the scrappy nature of many matches last season, he should feel right at home this season given his strength and determination in a pack situation.
It is a case of the old and the new again at the Swans this year. Peter Chadwick was the Swans' best by a country mile last season but his herculean efforts ultimately could not progress a disappointing Swans' outfit any further than the first week of the finals. Chadwick, sporting a slick new haircut and a slim and fit exterior looks primed like a good racehorse for another strong year. His endurance and agility allows him to play a variety of positions but I feel he needs to fill in the ruck and backline again this year. He is an honest performance and as has been the case throughout his illustrious career, turns out a highly consistent performance and leads from the front each week.
The new brigade is hot on Chadwick's tail. Amongst those should be Evan Duryea. Duryea is an exceptionally talent locally-bred junior and has represented the state in the National Championships. I have big wraps on Duryea especially how he makes things look so easy seeing him in action. He accumulates possessions, is a versatile player, can dispose off both feet with precision and can read the play well. He is an attacking player, so opposition players will no doubt look to target him in defence. Duryea should take a leadership role this season and is one of a few players capable of winning the League Best & Fairest.
Like the Swans, the Lions will need to be led from the front to ensure their success this season. Jim Angel is a selfless team man who last year played a number of positions to try and plug numerous holes around the ground. Angel is a skilled player with plenty of experience and ability behind him. A strong aerial mark and accurate kick, the captain-coach will be again prominent on the field this year.
New recruits Nigel Hastings and Zach Maitland are among those who will undoubtedly have eyes on them as to their impact this season. Both will need to prominently throughout this season for the Lions to improve and perform on a much more consistent basis.
Dale Beaver is enigmatic at best, but that might be what Grafton needs as their spark. Beaver can be either destructive or destructable but will no doubt have an impact if he is committed to the team's cause this season. This will no doubt be a focus of new coach, Graham Blackwell, to ensure the midfielder/forward is able to use his mercurial skills to best advantage. The Ellem Oval ground should suit his style of play. If he is able to gain possessions in the midfield, he is more than capable of kicking goals on the run. Patience and disclipine will be the telling factors for Beaver, nevertheless, he should be an exciting player for any spectator to watch this season.
Ryan Sheather is the most consistent player in the Grafton side. Sheather is renowned for his commitment to the cause, well shown by his efforts in a struggling and under-siege backline throughout last season. If Grafton are more successful this season, Sheather will hopefully be more prominent across half-back and be able to exert more of his attacking ability. He is a talented player who is capable of coming out of his shell, but his effect on the game is again dependant on the success of his side.