Season Previews - Peter Jackson VFL

Box Hill Hawks

Coach: Marco Bello (third year)

Captain: David Mirra (third year)

2015 finish: Runner-up

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Jonathan Simpkin / 2. David Mirra / 3. Kurt Heatherley

Last premiership: 2013

Alignment: Hawthorn

 

Box Hill suffered a second straight VFL Grand Final defeat in 2015, by 54 points at the hands of Williamstown. The inspired Seagulls exposed a lack of foot speed the Hawks had regularly overcome with their quick, precise ball movement reminiscent of alignment partner Hawthorn. 

What’s worse is that plenty of pace has flown out the door, with Hawthorn-listed regulars Jonathan Simpkin and Jed Anderson now at new AFL clubs. However, quick small defender Max Warren, who played 60 games for North Ballarat between 2012 and 2015 while on North Melbourne’s list, will help in containing opposition small forwards – the likes of which torched the Hawks in the Grand Final. 

Box Hill’s tall stocks have also taken a hit with key defender Sam Collins drafted by Fremantle, dual ‘Frosty’ Miller Medallist Sam Grimley signed as an Essendon top-up player and the retirement of AFL premiership Hawks Brian Lake and David Hale likely to see VFL regulars Kurt Heatherley, James Sicily and Tim O’Brien receive senior opportunities. 

Connor O’Sullivan and Dale Hehir are former Eastern Football League talls who could fill those key-position holes, with prolific goalkicker Hehir named the EFL’s 2015 Division 1/2 Young Gun. Sam Smith is a ruckman originally from the Northern Territory, while Jack Firns starred as a lock-down key defender in Oakleigh’s TAC Cup Grand Final triumph last year. 

Box Hill was the top-ranked team in the VFL for short kicks and uncontested marks in 2015, and expect to see more of the same under Marco Bello in 2016. The alignment with Hawthorn has been one of the competition’s most fruitful and will continue to provide a training ground for young AFL-listed Hawks to learn how to play the Hawthorn way.

 

Ins: Lachlan Williams (Dandenong Stingrays), Anthony Brolic (Eastern Ranges), Sam Smith (Kyabram), Max Canfield (Murray Bushrangers), Max Warren (North Melbourne), Connor O’Sullivan (Norwood), Brayden Kilpatrick (NSW/ACT Rams), Jack Firns (Oakleigh Chargers), Ben McIntyre (Penola), Dale Hehir (Scoresby), Liam Cox (South Croydon) 

Outs: Peter McEvoy (Coburg), Ryan Exon, Nik Papadopoulos, Agape Patolo (Frankston), Sam Collins (Fremantle), Sam Crocker, Dalton Graham (Port Melbourne)

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Casey Scorpions

Coach: Justin Plapp (second year)

Captain: Jaack Hutchins (first year)

2015 finish: 8th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Aidan Riley / 2. Jack Fitzpatrick / 3. Mitch Gent

Last premiership: 1999

Alignment: Melbourne

 

Casey showed significant improvement in Justin Plapp’s first year as senior coach after a 2014 season in which it finished 14th with just five wins. Plapp aimed to bring the AFL-listed Demons and VFL-listed Scorpions closer off the field in order to make the team better on it, and a finals berth was the result. However, Essendon jumped Casey early in their elimination final and the Scorpions were unable to reel in the deficit, losing by 21 points. 

The club’s biggest loss will be 10-year defender and captain for the last four seasons Evan Panozza, who has moved to the Gold Coast to play in the NEAFL. The Scorpions have also lost the top three finishers in their 2015 best and fairest count, with Aidan Riley delisted, Jack Fitzpatrick traded to Hawthorn and Mitch Gent playing with Noble Park in the Eastern Football League after 60 senior VFL games. 

A premium was placed on contested play under Plapp, as Casey ranked in the top three clubs for hitouts, clearances, and tackles per game across last year’s home-and-away season. The loss of Melbourne’s All Australian ruckman Mark Jamar will hurt in that department but the Scorpions have signed 203cm Oscar McInerney to support Demons Jake Spencer and Max King. The contested work of Aaron Cotte – one of the club’s raft of TAC Cup signings – will also help in the middle. 

However, Casey will need to find an answer to its inability to turn stoppage dominance into scores, after ranking in the bottom four clubs for goals and scores per inside 50 in 2015. Tom Baker booted 60 goals in 17 Nepean Football League games last year and could boost the club’s firepower inside 50. The Scorpions have also secured medium defender Todd Vander Haar – the son of former Essendon champion Paul – and midfielder Yarran Jaffer-Williams, a former member of the Sydney Swans Academy. 

In exciting news for Melbourne fans, a trio of high AFL draft picks are likely to spend time developing at Casey, with Christian Petracca returning from an ACL injury and Clayton Oliver and Sam Weideman joining the Demons in the 2015 Draft. 

 

Ins: Damien Johnston, Daniel Johnston (Beaconsfield), Lachlan Batten, Mitch Cox, James Freeman, Jake Lovett (Dandenong Stingrays), Aaron Cotte (Eastern Ranges), Connor Ambler, Aloysio Ferreira (Gippsland Power), Oscar McInerney (Montrose), Todd Vander Haar (Old Xaverians), Tom Baker (Rosebud), Dylan Gordon (Warburton-Millgrove), Frank Anderson (Whitefriars), Yarran Jaffer-Williams (Wodonga Raiders) 

Outs: Patrick Rosier, Lucas Walmsley (Frankston), Mitch Gent, Will Petropoulos (Noble Park), Joe Fisscher (Sandringham), Evan Panozza (Southport), Nathan Page (Tooradin)

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Coburg

Coach: Peter German (third year)

Captain: Nine-man rotation - Danny Younan, Lech Featherstone, Nathan Thomas, Ahmed Saad, Tom Goodwin, Peter McEvoy, Lachie Johns, Rory Lehmann, Mark Orr

 

2015 finish: 12th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Michael Hartley and Daniel Venditti / 3. Ozgur Uysal

Last premiership: 1989

Alignment: VFL standalone

 

The Lions went agonisingly close to securing a first finals berth since 2008 last year, with a loss to the Casey Scorpions in the penultimate round ending their bid for September action. On the positive side, Coburg produced a second AFL draftee in two years with key defender Michael Hartley selected by Essendon, while a core group of talented young players continued to develop their games. 

The new generation will now be thrust into the limelight, with seven-year club captain Nick Carnell, three-time best and fairest winner Daniel Venditti and midfield stalwart Ben Clifton departing Piranha Park over the off-season. Cale Morton’s move back to local football will also create a hole in the midfield. 

Despite boasting those names, Peter German’s team struggled to find the ball in 2015, ranking in the bottom five clubs for most offensive statistical measures. When the Lions did move it inside 50 they lacked the firepower to capitalise, ranked ahead of only Frankston for points scored. The recruitment of 33-game AFL goalsneak Ahmed Saad and VAFA forward Jake Lew – who kicked 69 goals in 17 games last year – should go some way to rectifying the problem. 

Coburg’s strength is its work without the ball, ranking third in the competition for tackles per game in 2015. The loss of hardened bodies in the midfield therefore needs to be covered by the likes of rising star Ozgur Uysal, while Northern Football League midfielder Adam Valeri will add grunt in the engine room along with Michael Ercolano – who finished third in last year’s Northern Knights best and fairest count behind AFL draftees Jade Gresham and Brayden Fiorini. 

As for the void left in defence by Michael Hartley’s drafting, the signing of 2015 VAFA Team of the Year centre half back Simon Caven is important, as is the addition of Eastern Football League stopper Kyle Staples. The club’s strong connection with the Calder Cannons also sees nine of their TAC Cup graduates join the list.

 

Ins: Jake Lew (Ajax), Rhys Free, Jesse Muscatello (Bendigo Pioneers), Peter McEvoy (Box Hill Hawks), Mitch Conn, Josh Flower, Jack James, Luke Ryan, Mark Kovacevic, Cameron McRorie, George Romios, Matthew Stillman, Dylan Tarczon, Zak Wunhym (Calder Cannons), Dylan McDonald (Murray Bushrangers), Garrett McDonagh (Northern Blues), Michael Ercolano, Matthew Mattingly (Northern Knights), Simon Caven (St Bernard’s), Ahmed Saad (St Kilda), Kyle Staples (Vermont), Jaycob Hickey (Western Jets), Adam Valeri (West Preston-Lakeside), Matthew Merlo (Williamstown), Joseph Tegart (Queenbeyan), Michaelis McMasters (Palmerston) 

Outs: Nick Carnell (retired), Ben Clifton (retired), Daniel Venditti (work), Cale Morton (Diggers Rest), Michael Hartley (Essendon AFL), Charlie Van Der Byl (Maribyrnong Park), Tom Miles (Mitcham), Michael Tang (Port Melbourne), Jack Yelland (West Coburg), Damon Symes (Yarrawonga)

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Collingwood

Coach: Dale Tapping (fourth year)

Captain: Jack Hellier (fourth year)

2015 finish: 6th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Ben Moloney / 2. Jonathon Marsh / 3. Ben Kennedy

Last premiership: 1892

Alignment: AFL standalone

 

The Magpies were just over one straight kick away from playing off for a VFL Grand Final berth last year. They let a golden opportunity slip against Sandringham in a semi final, leading the Zebras by 18 points at half time but eventually losing by seven. However, a comprehensive elimination final victory over Werribee will do wonders for the confidence of the club’s youngsters heading into 2016. 

Lachlan Wallace (24 years old), Ash Close (24), Nick Gray (23), Jack Blair (22) and Gus Borthwick (19) all had their moments on the big September stage last year, while tall forward Michael Still was cut down by injury during the season. Their continued development might offset the loss of VFL regulars Sam Dwyer, Ben Kennedy, Paul Seedsman, Clinton Young and club leading goalkicker Patrick Karnezis, who were either delisted or traded from the AFL team. 

22-year-old Jake Williams, another talented youngster, has returned to the VAFA after 36 games in two years at the club. However, tough small forward Lachlan Ferguson will return to Collingwood after impressing in 32 VFL games during 2013 and 2014. 

The Magpies will also welcome the top two finishers in the 2015 Bendigo Pioneers best and fairest count. Lachlan Tardrew claimed the award averaging 29 disposals per game in 16 TAC Cup matches, while runner-up Marty Hore is a promising attacking defender. Other signings include half back flanker Dale Hinkley from the North Central Football League and former Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs defender Jordan Kelly. 

Consistent with the strengths of Nathan Buckley’s AFL team, Dale Tapping’s VFL group thrived in the contests last year. Its highest statistical rankings were in contested possessions and clearances, and with a couple of big-name recruits added to the AFL midfield over the off-season, some unlucky on-ballers might find themselves further bolstering the VFL team’s centre line.

 

Ins: Lachlan Ferguson (returning), Marty Hore, Lachlan Tardrew (Bendigo Pioneers), Dale Hinkley (Birchip-Watchem), Adrian Indovino (De La Salle), Angelo Rambaldi (Doncaster), Will Knight (Heidelberg), Marcus Alessi (Marcellin College), Lachlan Howe (St Joseph’s), Matthew Smith (Strathfieldsaye), Jordan Kelly (Western Bulldogs)

Outs: Rupert Wills (Collingwood AFL), Scott Greenhough (Deer Park), Jake Williams (De La Salle), Ben Monkhorst (Woori Yallock), Tim Allan (work), Kieran Ellis, Ben Fennell

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Essendon

Coach: Matthew Egan (first year)

Captain: Daniel Coghlan (first year)

2015 finish: 4th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. James Polkinghorne / 2. Dan Coghlan / 3. Ariel Steinberg

Last premiership: -

Alignment: AFL standalone

 

Essendon’s 2016 VFL team will be almost unrecognisable from the one that knocked reigning premier Footscray out of last year’s finals in straight sets before losing to Williamstown in an epic preliminary final battle by 12 points. 

The 2015 captain (Marcus Marigliani), best and fairest winner (James Polkinghorne) and leading goalkicker (Kyle Hardingham) are all off the list. Polkinghorne is still with the Bombers as a top-up player for the AFL team, and like many AFL-listed youngsters who would otherwise be playing in the VFL, he’ll likely be required for regular senior duties following the suspension of 12 players due to the club’s supplements saga. 

Some important AFL-listed regulars of recent seasons have been delisted and will also be missing from action, including Alex Browne, Lauchlan Dalgleish, Elliott Kavanagh, Nick O’Brien and Ariel Steinberg. Three talented TAC Cup graduates join the list though, with Bruno Laguda, James El Moussalli and Nash Holmes likely to see early game time. Holmes was an AFL Academy member who averaged 25 disposals and seven tackles per game last year. 

Essendon was the VFL’s second-ranked team for disposals, kicks and marks per game in 2015, but the slow, deliberate style of ball movement may change under the direction of John Worsfold and Matthew Egan, the club’s new AFL and VFL senior coaches respectively. 

The recommitment of tough midfielders Dan Coghlan and Jordan Schroder for 2016 will help the Bombers attempt to maintain their top-five competition rankings for contested possessions and clearances per game, also strengths of the famed West Coast midfields of the mid-2000s under Worsfold’s coaching.

 

Ins: Victor Carboni (Aberfeldie), Bruno Laguda (Calder Cannons), Nash Holmes (Gippsland Power), James El Moussalli (Northern Knights), Alex Boyse (St Bernards), Matt Darby (Avondale Heights), Ben Dobson (St Marys), Matthew Dornauf (Whittlesea), Alex Marklew (Doutta Stars), Chris Peart (St Bernards), Hayden Walters (Eastpoint)

Outs: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon AFL), James Polkinghorne (Essendon AFL top-up player), Alex Hickey (Geelong), Marcus Marigliani (Heidelberg), Liam Byrne, Kyle Hardingham, Charles Lill, Sam Tagliabue

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Footscray

Coach: Ashley Hansen (second year)

Captain: Jordan Russell (second year)

2015 finish: 5th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Brent Prismall / 2. Nathan Hrovat / 3. Ayce Cordy

Last premiership: 2014

Alignment: AFL standalone 

 

Despite a top-four finish after the home-and-away rounds, reigning premier Footscray didn’t fire a shot in September. The Bulldogs bowed out of the finals in straight sets, losing to the Box Hill Hawks by 40 points then being humbled by 66 points at the hands of Essendon. However, there is plenty of cause for optimism in 2016. 

The loss of Brent Prismall to suspension is significant. The 29-year-old is almost an on-field coach for the developing Western Bulldogs pups and claimed Footscray’s best and fairest award last year following a prolific season off half-back. Several AFL-listed regulars have been delisted and will also leave an experience void, including Ayce Cordy, Sam Darley and Brett Goodes. 

The club’s leadership structure importantly remains intact though, with older heads Jordan Russell at the helm as captain once again and Mark Austin as vice-captain. In addition, former St Kilda rookie Jordan Staley joins the club after two years at North Ballarat, as does ball-winning half back Lauchlan Dalgleish, who spent three years on Essendon’s AFL list. 

In terms of youth, many VFL-listed Bulldogs have recommitted to the cause. Small forward Will Hayes looks a star in the making, while the likes of Mitch Hannan, Nick Jamieson and Liam Nash are developing well. They’ll be joined this year by two TAC Cup graduates, classy midfielder Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith and half back Brad Olsson.

Senior coach Ash Hansen had the production line humming at Footscray in his first season in charge. AFL-listed youngsters were regularly able to step straight into Luke Beveridge’s finals-bound team in 2015, accustomed to the exciting high-disposal (ranked first in the VFL for disposals and uncontested possessions per game), high-scoring game style now synonymous with the Bulldogs organisation. Expect more of the same in 2016.

 

Ins: Lauchlan Dalgleish (Essendon AFL), Brad Olsson (Gippsland Power), Jordan Staley (North Ballarat), Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith (Sandringham Dragons), Hugh Wales (Werribee), Simon Deery (Williamstown), Jordan Clarke, Fraser Dale, Giles Guest, Gabe Hamilton, Dale Hoghton, Mitch Palma, Nick Ryan, Andrew Sloan, Sam Willatt, Shawn Wyatt, Tyson Young

Outs: Darcy Fort (Centrals), Brent Prismall (Essendon suspension), David Iaccarino (Port Melbourne), Sam Boyd, Meyrick Buchanan, Michael Fogarty, Josh Huxtable, Mitch Jensen, Jordan Keras, Ben Morton

 

Membership: Footscray Bulldogs memberships are available now, giving you access to all Footscray home matches at VU Whitten Oval. You will also receive a member pack, heritage membership card and Footscray key chain. Prices as follows: Adult: $60, Concession $50, Junior $40.

Visit membership.westernbulldogs.com.au for more information.

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Frankston

Coach: Patrick Hill (second year)

Captain: Jason Pongracic (first year)

2015 finish: 15th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Ben Cavarra / 2. Corey Buchan / 3. Shane Hockey and Jason Pongracic

Last premiership: 1978 (Division 2)

Alignment: VFL standalone

 

It was a long winless season for Frankston in Patrick Hill’s first season as senior coach. After recording four wins and two draws in 2014, the Dolphins finished a clear last in 2015 but will hold onto hope that the only way is up. Indeed, the playing list has seemingly improved over the off-season thanks to the club’s recruiters, despite the move of captain Shane Hockey to Western Australia and Josh Tynan to join his brother at North Port Oval. 

For a defence that leaked over 500 more points than the next lowest-ranked team during the 2015 home-and-away rounds, the acquisition of versatile former Carlton defender Andrew McInnes will be crucial, while classy half back Daniel Capiron headlines a group of Dandenong Stingrays graduates to join the club. The 19-year-old played seven games for Frankston last year but still managed to win Dandenong’s best and fairest award. 

Ex-Dolphins (2011) and Sandringham (2014) forward Josh Bennett returns to the VFL to add to a forward line that scored almost 300 less points than the next lowest-ranked team. The 25-year-old kicked 51 goals in 14 NEAFL games last year and will be able to provide support for the club’s young 2015 leading goalkicker Nathan Gardiner. 

Despite the woes at either end of the ground, it all starts in the midfield and the Frankston centre line is certainly beefed up for 2016. While contested work wasn’t a huge issue last year with Ben Cavarra helping the Dolphins finish as the ninth-ranked team for clearances and sixth-ranked team for tackles per game, 206cm ruckman and 2013 VFL representative player Michael Sikora will take some of the burden off the slightly undersized Kalem Post at stoppages. 

The uncontested side of things was a different story though, with Frankston ranking a clear last for uncontested possessions and uncontested marks per game last year. The signings of Box Hill Hawks premiership player Ryan Exon, Casey Scorpions wingman Lucas Walmsley and Division 1 Southern Football League premiership on-baller Jackson Peet will add class and dash.

 

Ins: Josh Bennett (Ainslie), Ryan Exon, Nik Papadopoulos, Agape Patolo (Box Hill Hawks), Patrick Rosier, Lucas Walmsley (Casey Scorpions), Daniel Capiron, Shannon Gladman, Sam Pickess, Harrison Prior, Jordan Rouse, Zach Rouse (Dandenong Stingrays), Jackson Peet (Dingley), Andrew McInnes (Norwood), Jack Mahon (Port Melbourne), Clay McCartney (Rumbalara), Michael Sikora (Strathmore) 

Outs: Nic Tuddenham (Langwarrin), Chris Irving (Pearcedale), Josh Tynan (Port Melbourne), Jarryd Douglas, Tom Pridgeon (Queensland), Shane Hockey (South Fremantle), Grant Valles (Sunbury)

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Geelong

Coach: Shane O’Bree (first year)

Captain: Seven-man rotation - Ben Raidme, Kieren Paliouras, Jake Edwards, Ryan Williams, Alex Hickey, Tom Stewart, Tom Atkins

2015 finish: 11th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Tom Ruggles / 2. Jarrad Jansen / 3. Dean Gore

Last premiership: 2012

Alignment: AFL standalone

 

The Geelong VFL team continued functioning as the ideal training ground for the club’s AFL-listed players in 2015. Despite missing the finals for a second straight year, the Cats defeated finalists Werribee twice and came close to beating Collingwood and eventual premier Williamstown in the first half of the season on the back of their young talent.

 

Geelong’s VFL model has been the envy of other AFL clubs for years and it again paid dividends last year, with the likes of Jake Kolodjashnij, Nakia Cockatoo and Michael Luxford receiving the perfect preparation for likely extended senior game time in future. Jarrad Jansen and Dean Gore were another two youngsters who flourished – finishing second and third respectively in the best and fairest count – but were subsequently traded as parts of high-profile deals.

 

Tom Ruggles – the man who won the best and fairest award – moves onto the AFL list after being selected by the Cats in the Rookie Draft, but may still spend time in the VFL. In other departures, one of last year’s co-captains Jackson Hollmer returns to local football as the VFL team’s games record holder, while Nick Dixon has moved to North Port Oval for more opportunity.

 

A group of locals will join the list for 2016, including 2015 Geelong Falcons best and fairest and second-placed finisher Harrison Kol and Will Sexton, with James Tsitas coming to the club after 29 games over two seasons with North Ballarat. 28-year-old former Carlton forward and 2011 Port Melbourne premiership player Jake Edwards also arrives after four years in the Ballarat Football League.

 

It’s hard to imagine much changing in terms of game style under new coach Shane O’Bree, who has been at Geelong since 2013. The Cats were one of the most handball-oriented teams in the VFL when in possession last year, consistent with the trademark free-flowing brand of football the AFL team has become known for.

 

Ins: Kane Leersen, Sam McLachlan (Colac), Jake Edwards (Darley), Alex Hickey (Essendon VFL), Harrison Kol, Will Sexton (Geelong Falcons), Ryan Abbott, Jay Moody (Grovedale), Timm House (Newtown & Chilwell), James Tsitas (North Ballarat), Tom Stewart (South Barwon), Sam Dobson (St Mary’s), Billy Barnes (Torquay)

Outs: Fraser Fort (Centrals), Tom Ruggles (Geelong AFL), Jackson Hollmer (Port Fairy), Nick Dixon (Port Melbourne), Dane McFarlane (Werribee), Stephen Bensted, Daniel Gibbs, Mitch Herbison, Tom Maas, Daniel Measures, Jackson Sheringham, Zak Sherman

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North Ballarat

Coach: Marc Greig (first year)

Captain: Matt Austin (second year)

2015 finish: 9th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Luke Kiel / 2. Myles Sewell / 3. Nick Rippon

Last premiership: 2010

Alignment: VFL standalone

 

2016 is the beginning of a new era at Eureka Stadium. Not only has triple premiership-winning senior coach Gerard FitzGerald departed the club after spending the last nine years in charge but North Ballarat will set out on its own as the partial AFL alignment with North Melbourne ends after eight seasons. Further, 2015 co-captain Myles Sewell has left to play in the Eastern Football League after a stellar VFL career. 

Stepping up to fill FitzGerald’s sizeable boots is club legend Marc Greig, who takes over the coaching reins after five years as an assistant coach. Greig played in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 premierships under FitzGerald and captained the Roosters in 2011 and 2012. He is also the club’s games record holder. 

It looks likely Greig will continue FitzGerald’s legacy of bringing North Ballarat Rebels graduates through to the region’s VFL team. 2015 J. J. Liston Trophy winner Nick Rippon and Tony Lockyer are just a couple of young locals to have progressed from the TAC Cup to consistent senior football and they’ll be joined by a new batch in 2016. 

Among them, Matt Johnston, Joe Symons, Tom Templeton and 2015 Rebels best and fairest winner Josh Webster all played in the TAC Cup as 19-year-olds last year, when they also made their VFL debuts for North Ballarat as 23rd players. In addition, 2013 Rebels best and fairest Louis Herbert returns to his home region after three AFL games in two years on Gold Coast’s rookie list. 

The loss of Sewell and several North Melbourne midfielders opens up opportunities that will need to be grasped in the centre. The Roosters won plenty of the ball in space in 2015 but struggled mightily in the contests, ranking last in the VFL for contested possessions and clearances per game. To move into the top eight this year, Greig will need to improve his team’s performance in close.

 

Ins: Louis Herbert (Gold Coast Suns), Coby Perry (Maryborough), Matthew Johnston, Ben Lusby, Joe Symons, Tom Templeton, Xavier Vearing, Josh Webster (North Ballarat Rebels) 

Outs: Jordan Staley (Footscray), James Tsitas (Geelong), Myles Sewell (South Croydon)

 

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Northern Blues

Coach: Josh Fraser (first year)

Captain: Tom Wilson

2015 finish: 14th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Brad Walsh / 2. Nick Graham / 3. Mark Whiley and Brent Bransgrove

Last premiership: 1984

Alignment: Carlton

 

The Northern Blues’ 2015 fortunes followed the same path as those of their AFL counterparts at Carlton, with a lack of depth at senior level impacting on the quality of the VFL team. New senior coach Josh Fraser arrives after two seasons coaching Gold Coast’s reserves in the NEAFL, where he took the team from a winless 2014 campaign to an eight-win season in 2015. He’ll be aiming for similar improvement at Northern. 

Several Carlton-listed VFL regulars of recent seasons were delisted from the AFL team over the off-season, including David Ellard, Matthew Watson and Brad Walsh, but the Blues haven’t seen an exodus of VFL-listed players. Alex Browne, signed after being delisted from Essendon, is now suspended due to the Bombers supplements saga, but the club’s other departures weren’t playing regular senior football. 

Northern has made some exciting signings for 2016, including tall forward Jack Cripps – the cousin of Carlton star Patrick Cripps – who could help rectify the club’s inability to put consistent scores on the board last year. TAC Cup graduates Hisham Kerbatieh, a dynamic small forward, and Jayden Collins, a 200cm key-position player, will also help in that department. 

Two former AFL rookies – and brothers – are on the list as well. Fraser and Sam Russell, delisted last year from Carlton and Port Adelaide respectively, will bring elite-environment experience to a young group. 23-year-old forward Ben Casley also joins the club after three seasons in Williamstown’s successful system. 

The game style under Fraser will likely be highly dependent on how new Carlton coach Brendon Bolton wants them to play. With Bolton coming straight out of Hawthorn’s dominant system, expect a similar focus on skilful, high-possession ball movement as seen at the Box Hill Hawks.

 

Ins: Hisham Kerbatieh (Calder Cannons), Fraser Russell (Carlton), Jayden Collins, Jayden Cyster (Eastern Ranges), Jack Cripps (East Fremantle), Sam Russell (Port Adelaide), Tyler Roos (Sandringham Dragons), Ben Casley (Williamstown) 

Outs: Garrett McDonagh (Coburg), Alex Browne (Essendon suspension), Stephen Murray (Port Melbourne)

 

Membership: A youthful exuberance has filled the halls of Preston City Oval and Ikon Park, with a raft of new talent coming through the door over the summer. Combined with a bumper off-season at Carlton, the new-look Northern Blues side is looking to shake up the VFL competition. From just $30, a Northern Blues membership provides outstanding value for fans as we strive to march north in 2016. 

http://northernbluesfc.com.au/?page_id=10

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Port Melbourne

Coach: Gary Ayres (ninth year)

Captain: Toby Pinwill (second year)

2015 finish: 10th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Toby Pinwill / 2. Jordan Lisle / 3. Damian Mascitti

Last premiership: 2011

Alignment: VFL standalone

 

Port Melbourne has undertaken a huge list turnover after missing the finals for the first time since 2006. The traditional competition powerhouse started 2015 brightly with a 5-1 record but lost 10 of its last 12 games as significant injuries to key playmakers such as Chris Cain, James Magner, Leigh Osborne, Hugh Sandilands and Josh Scipione took a toll. 

Among the experienced heads to leave the club are Magner, Will Johnson, Tom Langford, Mitch Wooffindin and Daniel Noonan, the 2014 VFL Team of the Year defender who will leave a gaping hole in the Borough’s back six. Veteran senior coach Gary Ayres has clearly taken the chance to refresh the rest of the playing list in the wake of their departures. 

The club’s connection with the Oakleigh Chargers brings a swag of 2015 TAC Cup premiership players to North Port Oval, including ball-winners Fraser Pearce and Lachlan Sullivan, ruckman Michael Wenn and dependable defenders Daniel Beddison and Harvey Hooper. Tackling machine Aaron Fenton and raw ruckman Jarrad Smith are other promising TAC Cup graduates to sign on. 

Plenty of ex-AFL experience will supplement the youth. The dynamic Sam Dwyer returns to where it all began before being drafted (but will be in the sidelines for 14 weeks with a hamstring injury), with Mitch Golby and Matt Arnot also coming straight from the elite level. Former Melbourne player Josh Tynan will join his brother Luke at the club, while former St Kilda player Sam Crocker also crosses from a rival VFL club. 

Half forward Jason Williams is another to return after playing in Port Melbourne’s 2012 Grand Final loss, while the Borough has signed half back Jake McKenzie, best-on-ground in Williamstown’s Development League premiership victory last year. A key signing given Noonan’s departure will be 22-year-old Brody Mihocek, who emerged as part of Werribee’s defence across 11 senior games in 2015.

 

Ins: Sam De Soysa, Jarrad Matheson (Balwyn), Brody Connelly (Berwick), Sam Crocker, Dalton Graham (Box Hill Hawks), Mitch Golby (Brisbane Lions), Sam Bevan (Claremont), Michael Tang (Coburg), Sam Dwyer (Collingwood), Jason Williams (Diggers Rest), Luke Duffy (Drouin), Aaron Fenton, Jarrad Smith (Eastern Ranges), David Iaccarino (Footscray), Josh Tynan (Frankston), Nick Dixon (Geelong VFL), Tom Hobbs (Gippsland Power), Nick Parthenopoulos (Greenvale), Ben Gilling (Mulgrave), Stephen Murray (Northern Blues), Daniel Beddison, Harvey Hooper, Fraser Pearce, Pat Phillips, Lachlan Sullivan, Andrew Walker, Michael Wenn, Jayden Wilson (Oakleigh Chargers), Fabian Brancatisano (Pyramid Hill), Matt Arnot (Richmond AFL), Malcolm Neiwand, Alex Spencer (Sandringham), Jake Allan (Sunshine), Brody Mihocek (Werribee), Jake McKenzie (Williamstown), Toma Huther (Wonthaggi) 

Outs: Will Johnson (Collegians), Jack Mahon (Frankston), James Magner (Heidelberg), Seb Henderson (Mulgrave), Tom Langford (Richmond VFL), Daniel Noonan (VAFA), Shannon Taylor (WA), Sam Anderson, James Breust, Alex Brown, Tagan Carter-Taylor, Ed Clinch, Austin Deneys, Jake Dermott, Sam Gilmore, Brandon Hayes, Jarrod Healey, Patrick Jenkins, Clay Johnston, Tomi Johnston, Matthew Lello, Tim MacMillan, John McKenzie, Chris Michaliades, Nick Papaleo, Liam Patterson, Chris Prowse, Nick Prowse, Caleb Vearing, Mitch Wooffindin

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Richmond

Coach: Craig McRae (first year)

Captain: Sam Darley (first year)

2015 finish: 13th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Matt Dea / 2. Matt Thomas / 3. James Wall

Last premiership: 1905

Alignment: AFL standalone

 

The Richmond VFL team’s 2015 performances demonstrated a slight lack of depth in the club’s AFL playing list. Unlike the aligned teams of fellow AFL finalists Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Footscray, the VFL Tigers struggled for wins despite defeating North Ballarat twice and Port Melbourne once – teams that finished above them on the ladder. 

New senior coach Craig McRae joins the club after five years as a development coach at Collingwood and a previous stint in development at Richmond from 2007-09. McRae won the AFL Coaches Association’s Development Coach of the Year Award in 2014 and will make advancing the careers of AFL-listed youngsters such as Dan Butler, Reece McKenzie and Daniel Rioli his priority. 

The Tigers lose plenty of toughness in the midfield, with Jaryd Cachia heading back to his native South Australia after one year as captain, the retirement of Matt Thomas and the delisting of Matt Arnot from the AFL team. However, ball-winner Jacob Ballard joins after two years on Fremantle’s rookie list and inside midfielder Tom Couch returns to the VFL after a season in the Geelong Football League. 

Essendon’s signing of 2015 best and fairest winner Matt Dea as an AFL top-up player leaves a hole in defence that could be filled by half backs Sam Darley – the club's new captain fresh from the Western Bulldogs system – or VFL 100-gamer Tom Langford. 22-year-old indigenous utility Kelvin Williams will also add dash after a stellar season in the VAFA. 

Richmond was ranked sixth in the competition for disposals and uncontested possessions per game in 2015 but struggled to move the ball forward effectively and then convert in front of goal, ranking in the bottom three teams for inside-50s per game and scores per inside-50. Effective ball movement will surely be a focus area for McRae.

 

Ins: Tom Couch (Bell Park), Matthew Troutbeck (Bentleigh), Sam Hibbins (Collegians), Anthony Forato (De La Salle), Ash Morris (Deniliquin), Daniel Coffield (Eltham), Jacob Ballard (Fremantle), Jarred Ellis (Gold Coast Suns), Ryan Thomson (Mooroopna), Jordan Perry (Northern Blues), Jono Daggian (Old Scotch), Tom Langford (Port Melbourne), Kelvin Williams (St Kevin’s), Sam Darley (Western Bulldogs)

Outs: Luke Conca (Blackburn), Jaryd Cachia (Norwood), Ed Barlow, Chris Clay, Pat Contin, Devin McFarlane, Rian McGough, Jeremy Mugavin, Tom Quinn, Marshall Rippon, Jack Townley, James Wall, Cameron Williams, Nick Wynne

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Sandringham

Coach: Paul Hudson (second year)

Captain: Trent Dennis Lane (first year)

2015 finish: 3rd

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Clint Jones / 2. Mitch Brown / 3. Darren Minchington

Last premiership: 2006

Alignment: St Kilda

 

Boasting a balanced mix of VFL-listed experience and young St Kilda talent, the Zebras shot up the ladder in Paul Hudson’s first year as coach to defeat Collingwood by seven points in a semi final and then fall just seven points short of the Box Hill Hawks the next week. Now, the disappointment of a campaign that ended agonisingly short of a Grand Final berth has been compounded by the departures of three key 2015 pillars. 

Clint Jones, the competition’s leading disposal-winner last year, has left to play in the WAFL along with Adam Cockie, who departs after two years as club captain and best and fairest awards in 2013 and 2014. The third big loss is 2015 Team of the Year centre half forward Mitch Brown, fittingly rewarded for regular match-winning form when drafted by Essendon. 

These departures will be somewhat offset by a group of promising signings. Previous AFL experience arrives in the form dynamic former Geelong forward George Burbury and ex-North Melbourne defender Mitch Wilkins. 2015 Sydney rookie Sean McLaren will boost Sandringham’s tall stocks, while the retention of key defender Tom Simpkin after being delisted by St Kilda is a bonus. 

The club’s strong links with the Sandringham Dragons sees Nick Pavlou and Theo Thompson join the list, while hard-nut Kade Answerth – best-on-ground in the Oakleigh Chargers’ TAC Cup premiership win last year – should be ready to play straight away. 2015 Tasmanian State League Team of the Year forward Julian Dobosz will add goalkicking power to a front six now without Brown and Ahmed Saad. 

The Zebras finished second after the home-and-away rounds but surprisingly didn’t rank anywhere near as high in many key statistical areas. Instead, the strength of Paul Hudson’s team was in using heart and football experience to stage regular late-game comebacks, winning six matches by 15 points or less. The test in 2016 will be whether the new core group at Sandringham can develop the same traits.

 

Ins: Joe Fisscher (Casey Scorpions), Julian Dobosz (Hobart City), George Burbury (Mansfield), Mitch Wilkins (Norwood), Kade Answerth (Oakleigh Chargers), Jye Lloyd (Rye), Nick Pavlou, Theo Thompson (Sandringham Dragons), Tom Simpkin (St Kilda), Sean McLaren (Sydney Swans) 

Outs: Mitch Brown (Essendon AFL), Peter Shakallis (Old Haileybury), Clint Jones (Perth), Malcolm Neiwand, Alex Spencer (Port Melbourne), Adam Cockie (Subiaco)

 

Membership: Everything you need to know about supporting the SFC in 2016 can be found here - http://sandringhamfc.com.au/membership-categories.aspx

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Werribee

Coach: John Lamont (third year)

Captain: Michael Sodomaco (second year)

2015 finish: 7th

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Matt Hanson / 2. Jake Wilson / 3. Isaac Conway

Last premiership: 1993

Alignment: North Melbourne

 

The Tigers may have succumbed to Collingwood by 29 points in an elimination final, but showed they could mix it with the best in 2015. Werribee defeated both grand finalists – Williamstown and the Box Hill Hawks – twice, also recording victories over fellow top-eight teams Essendon and the Casey Scorpions. The foundations are set for a new era in the club’s history. 

After being partially aligned (alongside North Ballarat) with North Melbourne since 2008, the Tigers will be in full alignment with the Kangaroos in 2016. This means there will likely be fewer opportunities available for VFL-listed players as senior coach John Lamont looks to develop young AFL-listed talent such as Ryan Clarke, Sam Durdin, Mitchell Hibberd, Ben McKay and Ed Vickers-Willis. 

2015 regulars Jye Bolton and Jesse Crichton have moved to Western Australia, while the departures of Brody Mihocek, Brayden Norris and Dylan Reid will also open up spots in the team. However, with the likes of Matt Hanson, Jake Wilson and Isaac Conway demanding game time, it’ll be a difficult task for this season’s recruits to play regular senior football. 

However, one arrival who could make an immediate impact is former West Coast and Geelong Falcons defender Jordan Jones. The 25-year-old will return to Victoria after three seasons at West Coast and four playing in the WAFL, while another ready-made player is recently delisted Essendon rookie Kurt Aylett. 

Lamont will be hoping the increase in available AFL talent can improve Werribee’s bottom-three rankings for disposals, uncontested possessions and uncontested marks per game last year. The Tigers excelled at winning the ball in contests – ranking second in the competition for clearances per game – but struggled to hold onto it.

 

Ins: Ryley Barrack, Billy Mahony (Bendigo Pioneers), Kurt Aylett (Essendon AFL), Harry Kershaw (Geelong Falcons), Dane McFarlane (Geelong VFL), Julius Battista, Brydon Hodgson (Murray Bushrangers), Josh Corbett (North Warrnambool Eagles), Quade Butt (Western Jets), Jordan Jones (West Perth) 

Outs: Joe Redfern (Bendigo), Jye Bolton (Claremont), Jesse Crichton (East Fremantle), Hugh Wales (Footscray), Brody Mihocek (Port Melbourne), Jacob Graham, Brayden Norris, Dylan Reid

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Williamstown

Coach: Andrew Collins (third year)

Captain: Ben Jolley (fifth year)

2015 finish: Premier

2015 best and fairest placings: 1. Ben Jolley / 2. Sam Dunell / 3. Mitch Banner

Last premiership: 2015

Alignment: VFL standalone

 

The Seagulls weren’t able to enjoy winning their first flag since 2003 for too long, needing to quickly recruit replacements for some significant off-season losses. While premiership stars such as Ben Jolley, Nick Meese, Sam Dunell, Peter Faulks and Michael Gibbons are going around again, others have departed on a high. 

Dynamic small forward Andrew Gallucci and tough inside midfielder Adam Marcon have graduated to the elite level after being selected in last year’s AFL Rookie Draft, while classy wingman Mitch Banner will play in the Ballarat Football League. Influential big men Scott Clouston and Sean Tighe will also leave big holes in the Williamstown spine. 

Two players who would’ve stepped straight into the line-up were out the door almost as soon as they’d been signed, with Ariel Steinberg suspended due to the Essendon supplements saga and Matt Dea required as a Bombers top-up player. Ayce Cordy will definitely play though, the 204cm ex-Western Bulldogs forward/ruckman likely to become the club’s no.1 target inside 50. 

Delisted St Kilda utility Arryn Siposs will provide another big body around the ball, while athletic former GWS Giants Academy member Liam Griffiths joins the Seagulls after a stellar season in the NEAFL. The club’s strong link with the Western Jets continues, with the first and second-placed finishers in Western’s 2015 best and fairest count, Lachlan Knight and Mitch Norton, joining Brayden Monk as promising midfielder/forwards on the list. 

Despite the big departures, premiership coach Andrew Collins will be loath to change much about Williamstown’s successful style of play. 2015’s top-ranked team for contested possessions and clearances per game would win the ball in the engine room and kick it long to a devastating mix of strong marking talls and zippy pressurising smalls inside 50, the league’s most effective group at scoring once the ball was in its zone.

 

Ins: Liam Griffiths (Ainslie), Jayden Burke, Lachie Schultz, Mitchell Trait (Bendigo Pioneers), Tom Condon (Calder Cannons), Christian Buykx-Smith (Gippsland Power), Josh Minogue (Murray Bushrangers), Dex Brumby (PEGS), Arryn Siposs (St Kilda), Ayce Cordy (Western Bulldogs), Liam Carter, Lachlan Knight, Brayden Monk, Mitch Norton (Western Jets), Ben Deller, Nick Ebinger (Williamstown CYMS) 

Outs: Andrew Gallucci (Carlton), Matthew Merlo (Coburg), Mitch Banner (Darley), Matt Dea (Essendon AFL top-up player), Ariel Steinberg (Essendon suspension), Ben Casley (Northern Blues), Jake McKenzie (Port Melbourne), Adam Marcon (Richmond AFL), Brad Mangan, Sean Tighe (Strathmore), Scott Clouston

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VFL 2017 Ladder

Peter Jackson VFL 2017
POS TEAM PTS
1 Williamstown 56
2 Box Hill Hawks 54
3 Port Melbourne 50
4 Casey Demons 48
5 Richmond 44
6 Essendon 40
7 Footscray 40
8 Collingwood 32
9 Northern Blues 32
10 Geelong 32
11 Sandringham 32
12 Werribee 32
13 Coburg 8
14 North Ballarat 4