Round 1 Match Previews
Laval Bombers vs. West Island Wooders
A rematch of last year’s epic grand final awaits us this Sunday at 12.30pm at Parc Cluny as the reigning champions Laval Bombers faceoff against the newly branded West Island Wooders. Not only are the Wooders newly rebranded by name they will also look like a much different squad when they take to the field come game time.
A big winter clear-out sees a lot of new faces gone and a lot of new ones in. Matt Payne, while remaining the spiritual leader of the team, has this year taken a step back from coaching to now concentrate on playing. The responsibility of now guiding the Western boys back to another AFL Quebec Grand final and perhaps going one more now lies with former Montreal Demon Dan Robinson. Robinson along with former QAFL star Phil Manassa will provide the Eagles with much needed experience, something they may have been lacking in past years. Add in the flying Frenchman Wilfred Houvion and along with Payne the Wooders have the makings of a seriously strong team.
Last year Houvion was kept quiet in the Final by the truly excellent Chris Wienand but doubts remain as to his availability this Sunday, something which will cause concern to Bombers Coach, Paul Fairbrother. However like always the master tactician, Fairbrother, will have this addressed and will have a game plan in place to nullify the treat of Houvion to an acceptable level.
Going into the draft with only a second round pick it would have seemed that the Bombers may have missed out on some big names, but in Damien Conneely the Bombers may have picked up a diamond in the rough. Coming from a Gaelic football background if the Irishman can make the transition to footy relatively seamlessly he will be a massive asset not only in this game but in the season as a whole. For this game it is very possible he may be employed as a tagger on either Houvion or Robinson.
Wooders themselves drafted very well in securing the services of some potential future stars of the AFL Quebec such as James Rassi, Fabio Petosa, Ian Martin and Pio Chemin. The latter two unfortunately have bowed out of round one due to injury and personal reasons respectively but expect Rassi and Petosa to be involved right from the off.
Although Canadian Rassi comes to Wooders with a couple years of footy experience from down under and Petosa has yet to be seen drop a mark something which will bode well for the Wooders in this game and going forward. The Wooders will also be delighted to see the Lavoie brothers returning to footy for another year so the future looks very bright for the Wooders.
Unfortunately though for the Wooders, Yours truly thinks it may take more than just one game for it all to come together for them and the big game experience and big game players the Bombers possess such as Strevens, Fairbrother, Boulerice and last year’s Best and Fairest Rotaru may just be too much for the Wooders to overcome on this occasion. The future is bright for the West Island based team but just not right now.
It will be a tight game but expect Rotaru to shine and the Bombers to win by two goals.
Montreal Demons vs. Old Montreal Dockers
The new season brings a wealth of possibilities for both these sides which failed to make the Grand Final last year. Both teams will be out for redemption and with the strong drafting achieved by both sides, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this might be a preview of this year’s Grand Final.
The Old Montreal Dockers are certainly feeling cross about last year’s last finals, they were coming off an incredible home and away season which saw them run away with the minor premiership by mid-season only to be undone by a superior and fitter Bombers and Eagles side in the finals. Coach Shaughnessy has been hard at work recruiting players after the departure of reigning Coleman medalist Toby Campain along with ruckman Dan Peters and their girl brigade of Emily Legault, Mime Eboka and Anna Belfort.
The Dockers were happy to announce that in addition to Neil Koch and Guy Joel Rocher making their long awaited combacks to playing full time footy, they were able to add more Aussie experience with Judd Kozikowki and Jarrod Faranda and the steal of the draft in Steve McCammon who is unfortunately out with injury for the first few rounds. Sebastien Charbonneau is going to be their ace-up-the-sleeve as he looks to be developing quite the footy touch after an impressive performance in the rookie game.
The Montreal Demons were undone last year in the Elimination Final by a much better Eagles side and their skipper/manager Luke O’Farrell did his best Paul Roos impersonation vowed that things would be different in 2014. Unfortunately for the Demons, they were dealt a heavy blow with the departure of Daniel Robinson to the newly rebranded West Island Wooders; however, he can count on the return of arguably Canada’s best ruckman in Morgan Whyte who will be making his long awaited return to AFL Quebec after a season away. In addition to having Whyte, the Demons found a gem in Doron Felman who looks like being a smokey in this year’s draft. The Dees were also able to select France’s version of the Sedin twins with Thomas Diffine and Yann Sadier going back to back in the draft! It’s an exciting time to be a Dees fan.
The Demons will look drastically different come the end of the season. There are some big outs currently with Kyle Graham and Christopher Micheletti both out until mid-season with lower body injuries. The possible reemergence of Nathan Jacobs and Tim Nixon could be catalysts in what should be a roller coaster ride for the Demons side that was never truly able to gel last year because of the musical chair list management that rarely saw the same team feature on two consecutive weeks.
With all these new faces making their debut for their respective sides, it is very difficult for the Shady Punter to make a calculated prediction (which means I’ll most probably be right this time).
Both teams were able to hold onto their core players while adding some depth to their side. If the Demons are able to subdue the always dangerous Shaughnessy, Rocher and Andrada in the middle while limiting the importance of Koch up forward then they should have no problem taking the 4 points. No easy task mind you.
The Demons have a multitude of weapons in their arsenal, but they have to show up to the games. Lawless, O’Farrell, Jacobs and Whyte are all proven game changers, but they have to be on the field. On their day, the Dees are too fast and too strong for the Dockers.
Shady Punter predicts a 2 goal win for the reigning minor premiers Dockers in the first game of the season at park Cluny in Laval.