An extremely busy off-season in the signing department has seen Wangaratta City roar into the upcoming Albury Wodonga Football Association (AWFA) season as favourites.
The club has maintained its talented list, including star import Adam Burchell, and brought in enough experience and talent to have a serious tilt at the title.
Coach: Connor Heffernan
Last year: 6th
Fittest player in pre-season: Adam Burchell
Key man: Ryan Vandersteeg
Gains: Brendan Barton (Sheppaton South), Matt Jordan (Murray United), Riley Hamilton (GV suns), Chris Galea, Nathan Chin (Sheppaton South), Santu Atana, Mario Alcoli
What the coach says: “We have enjoyed a good pre-season and had a couple of competitive games in the FFA Cup,” Devils coach Connor Heffernan said.
“We’re aiming for a top six finish.”
Assistant coach Mario Antonello added the club is really happy to have Brendan Barton and Santu Atana on board.
We have enjoyed a good pre-season and had a couple of competitive games in the FFA Cup. We're aiming for a top six finish.
“He (Barton) is solidly built and can play midfield or left back,” Antonello said.
“It makes a big difference when you sign bigger-bodied, mature players.
“He (Atana) will be another really good addition because he plays up front and will take a bit of pressure off the forward boys and score some goals.
“We haven’t lost too many blokes, which is good, so fingers crossed we’ll be competing again with the better teams.”
What we say: Wangaratta have recruited heavily in the summer.
The arrival of Riley Hamilton will be a big bonus for the Devils, who conceded 41 goals last year, with his NPL experience to add plenty of quality.
The combination of Barton and Vandersteeg will be a very physical central midfield partnership and expect them to really throw themselves about.
The loss of Stoycho Ivanov to injury is a big blow, however he is set to return at some stage this season.
Burchell should dominate again this campaign and appears to have sorted out his Visa status for another year.
Expect Heffernan to drop deep to use his passing range to involve Burchell, Mason Hope and George Elkotta early to get at defenders one-on-one.
Wangaratta should be there at the business end of the year and one of the better sides if all its are stars on.