OPEN FILED CHASE FLAG DREAM
BUT BURRAS STILL LEAD PACK
12 April 2016
DIGGERS Rest has been the heartbreak story in the Riddell District Football League three years running.
Diggers Rest’s John Ryan is tackled by Romsey’s Wally Saad during last year’s RDFL grand final. Both teams are expected to again feature in finals calculations this year.
The club has reached the final day of the season in 2013, 2014 and 2015 but has finished runner-up each time — by a combined 35 points to be exact.
Will 2016 be the year of the Burras? Many pundits think so. Diggers Rest and coach Shaun Sims can only hope.
“There’s no point looking at grand finals and that at this time of year because there’s just so much water to go under the bridge,” Sims said.
“We just look at being the best team we can be and hopefully we can put ourselves in the best position we can to play finals which I’m sure every team is aiming to do.”
The Burras have strengthened their list again over the off-season, adding former Melbourne and West Coast midfielder Cale Morton and former Gold Coast and North Melbourne on-baller Taylor Hine to an already powerful line-up.
But while Diggers Rest might be well placed, so are plenty of other clubs vying for the silverware.
Riddell, Romsey, Rupertswood, Broadford and Macedon head the chasing pack, all believing they can take the top prize this year.
Riddell finished as minor premier last year with 14 wins from 16 matches before bombing out of finals in straight sets and is determined to make amends.
New coach Jamie Elliott — a former Diggers Rest mentor — plans to give more games to youngsters this year.
He said he did not know what the immediate future would hold, but was confident his side would be competitive.
“Club-wise we’re probably looking to give games to a lot of kids so maybe in one or two years we might be able to have a crack,” Elliott said.
“But you never know, the kids might jump out of the ground.”
The Bombers have lost Matthew Darby to Essendon VFL in a major blow, but have added Ben Sonogan, Scott Walsh and Tim Walsh from Gisborne as well as Ben Said (Sunbury).
Similarly, Macedon has also raided some of Gisborne’s top-end talent, securing Bendigo Football League interleague ruckman Tom Waters as well as midfielder Casey Summerfield and forward Matthew Knox from the Bulldogs.
“They’ve brought good culture and good training habits to our guys so they’ve fitted in well,” Cats coach Jeff Andrews said.
But Macedon will have to find some new avenues to goal with key forward Marcus Kenny to miss the year after undergoing knee surgery.
Kenny kicked 42 goals in 10 games for the Cats last year.
Back-to-back premier Romsey has, potentially foolishly, been written off by some brave pundits.
The side has lost some of its blue-chip talent, with Stephen Burlak (Rupertswood), Chris Petroro (Pascoe Vale), Zac Saad (moved interstate) and Cam Wight (Lancefield) moving on.
While there has not been much to note on the recruiting front to offset those losses, new coach Andrew Bubb still has his sights set on finals.
“I think we’ll be in the six,” he said.
“If we get some injuries and stuff like that, that might hurt us a little bit. But hopefully we’ll be right.”
Rupertwood has kept its list changes to a minimum, with Burlak the big in and Leigh Brennan and Mitchell Gaunt (both St Albans) the key departures.
The side has finished in the top-six the past two years but remains winless from three finals outings, new coach Kevin Fitzgerald determined to take Rupo to the next level.
“With that bit more experience, the expectation is they can win a final and go on from there,” he said.
Broadford has landed some significant signings as it looks to take the next step after a preliminary final exit last year.
Sunbury Kangaroos missed finals by only one game and percentage last year but are taking a more long-term view on their prospects.
“We’ve established about 85 per cent of our list is between the ages of 17 and 25,” new coach Jarrod Dixon said.
“So that gives us good long term prospects.
“We’re not looking for short-term success, we’re looking for long-term stability.”
Lancefield finished three games outside finals in 2015 and thought it would again struggle this year until “some dominoes fell” and the Tigers secured some big additions, headlined by former Northern Blues VFL forward Myles Dorman from Lara.
“We’re certainly hoping that he’s going to have a big impact for us this year,” Lancefield coach Ash Manning said.
“We’re looking forward to seeing him in the forward line with Jon Kent and seeing if they can do a bit of damage.”
Wallan, Woodend-Hesket and Melton Centrals will all be looking to make inroads on the rest of the competition after tough 2015 campaigns while Rockbank has a tough road ahead after the departures of about a dozen core players over summer.
Picture: MARK DADSWELL