BFL: new faces galore for opening round | teams selection video

FIRST UP: Jacob Wheelahan getting an opportunity with Bacchus Marsh
FIRST UP: Jacob Wheelahan getting an opportunity with Bacchus Marsh

DARLEY v BACCHIUS MARSH

at Darley Park, Sunday  2.20pm

LAST MET: round 13 last year - Bacchus Marsh 22.15 (147 ) d Darley 6.9 (45)

Bacchus Marsh is expecting a full-on assault from an improved Darley as it launches its Ballarat Football League premiership defence at Darley on Sunday.

There is always plenty of feeling in this derby, although over the past two years they have been far from hard-fought affairs.

Two seasons ago in Darley’s premiership campaign, the Devils dominated – winning by 80 and 89 points.

Then last year as Bacchus Marsh built up to its first BFL flag, the Cobras ran away with their two meetings by 73 and and 102 points.

Bacchus Marsh coach Travis Hodgson has no doubt Darley will be a tough nut to crack under the guidance of new coach Heath Scotland, who despite initially expecting to miss this match after knee surgery, has been named across half back. 

“They’ll be much different.

“It’s going to be a big game.”

Hodgson said he had been very happy with the Cobras’ pre-season.

There have been no signs of any premiership hangover, with the majority of the grand final-winning team still intact.

Cam Richardson and Damian Cupido are two big losses, but Hodgson is more than satisfied with their replacements in Scott Sherlock from Werribee in the VFL, Ryley Stuhldreier back home from South Barwon and key position player Dean Heta (North Albury).

Bacchus Marsh has also found room for Jacob Wheelahan, who has graduated from North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup to earn a spot on the North Ballarat Roosters’ VFL list.

As well as the departures, Bacchus Marsh will also missing premiership players Lachlan Phyland (hand) and Sim La Franchi (hamstring) with injury this round.

In addition to Scotland, Darley welcomes brothers Brian and Chris Graham, Dan Roy, Jay Pearson, Kyle Doherty and Jackson Carrick – giving the side a completely new look.

Then as well as Shane Page, and Brad Matt Inglis have been welcomed back from long-term injuries.

EAST POINT v BALLARAT

at Eastern Oval, Saturday, 2.20pm

Last met: round 16, 20016 - East Point 14.16 (100) d Ballarat 9.18 (72)

EAST POINT: a new coaching panel and new players means a new dynamic. What that means for East Point remains an unknown - even for new coach Jake Bridges. Daniel Semmens, Rylan Ratley and Hasker Dawborn are among the newcomers to a line-up which has gone through a significant transformation in the off-season. Bridges said naturally the Kangaroos wanted to be competitive and this would be determined by factors on and off the field he would be closely monitoring.

BALLARAT: new coach Shane Hutchinson will lead a youthful and reshaped line-up into battle. He is wasting no time introducing recruits such as assistant coach Nick Garner, who returns to the Swans, Travis Hoyle, Jack Sutherland and Tom Conroy with a full list available. Ballarat upset East Point early last season and is looking to do the same with game plan based around pace. Hutchinson said the Swans had had some great battles with East Point and hopefully they could stand up as they had in the past.

PREDICTION: East Point

REDAN v LAKE WENDOUREE

at City Oval, Saturday, 2.20pm

Last met: semi-final, 2016 - Lake Wendouree 11.14 (80) d Redan 8.11 (59)

REDAN: The Lions shape as an x-factor. There has not been a lot of movement by Redan, but Brendan Peace is an astute leader and one thing he does have around him is experience. Redan has been one of the most resolute teams in the competition for a decade. One thing appears for sure, the Lions are as fit as they have been for the start of a season for sometime and this will be enough to sound alarm bells for rivals as they to spring an early surprise.

LAKE WENDOUREE: despite some changes in key personnel, Lakers have kept intact the linchpin of its game - the midfield, featuring the likes of Nick Peters, Ben Taylor and Steve Clifton, who will combine with new ruckman Arthur Armstrong. And new coach Tim Malone has no doubt this is where he believes this tussle will be decided. Lakers have lost their book-ends of last season, with BFL representative defender Lane Buckwell getting a chance with North Ballarat Roosters in the VFL and leading goalkicker Andrew Pitson moving on. Malone said despite this, most of the structure changes to last year would be in attack.

PREDICTION: Lake Wendouree

SUNBURY v MELTON

at Clarke Oval, Saturday, 6.20pm

Last met: round 14, 2016 - Sunbury 13.16 (4) d Melton 13.4 (82)

SUNBURY: The Lions will be without the versatile Grant Valles owing to concussion suffered against Melton South. Coach Ben Jordan said it was particularly disappointing to lose Valles, given he had worked into some strong form. Jordan said it had been disappointing to lose first-up to Melton South - a game it could have won after a strong start. He said Lions had not dwelt on that outcome and he believed they had done enough to indicate they could get the points this time.

MELTON: coach Brady Murphy says the Bloods are still flat after a disappointing season opening loss to Melton South - a performance which provided plenty of parallels to Sunbury. Not even a week off has softened the blow. Melton has lost recruit Gus Grigg (one-match suspension) and Corey Armstrong (fractured jaw), which will not make its task any easier. Murphy said Melton had set itself to win at least two of its opening three games, so this was important. Murphy sand with Sunbury likely to be around the same mark as Melton this was like an eight-point game. 

PREDICTION: Melton

MELTON SOUTH v NORTH BALLARAT CITY

at Melton Rec Reserve, Tuesday, 3.25pm

Last met: round 9, 2016 - North Ballarat City 25.16 (166) d Melton 9.8 (62) 

MELTON SOUTH: The Panthers will make a call on whether former Essendon player Tayte Pears (ankle) lines up as late as match day. Joint coach Sean Triplett said with two wins from two standalone marquee games under its belt, Melton South could not be in better shape. He said reinforced there was enormous improvement in the Panthers and this would become particularly evident when they started playing on bigger grounds. Triplett said Melton South needed to become more efficient with the ball - cutting back on basic errors which had given Melton and Sunbury too many scoring opportunities.

NORTH CITY: coach Jordyn Burke says his charges up and ready to tackle an already match-hardened Melton South. He said while it had been a curious start to the season with the Panthers getting two early games, North had had plenty of time to prepare for it. "We're backing our fitness." Burke said City would be focusing on stifling the midfield supply to Brendan Fevola. The match marks the return of key position tall Ryan Hobbs and Jimmy Vanderkley after long-term injuries.

PREDICTION: Melton South

NEWCOMERS

BALLARAT: Nick Garner (Donald), Jack Sutherland (Hamilton), Scott Wood (Donald), Tom Conroy (Hepburn), Travis Hoyle (Learmonth), Joel Antonio (Creswick), Jesse Marshall (Mt Clear under-16.5), Carter Prendergast (under-18.5)

BACCHUS MARSH: Scott Sherlock (Werribee Tigers), Ryley Stuhldreier (South Barwon), Dean Heta (North Albury), Jacob Wheelahan (under-18.5) 

DARLEY: Heath Scotland (Doncaster), Dan Roy (Lorne), Brian Graham (Wydhamvale), Chris Graham  (Wydhamvale), Jay Pearson (Doncaster) Kyle Doherty (Brunswick North), Jackson Carrick (Hepburn/North Ballarat Roosters), Ricky Hawkins (Bacchus Marsh)

EAST POINT: Daniel Semmens (St Joseph's), Rylan Ratley (Smythesdale), Hasker Dawborn (Bungaree/North Ballarat Rebels), Charlie Lee (Rebels), Cameron Jackson (under-18.5), Billy Watkins (reserves)

LAKE WENDOUREE: Jayden Hooper (Doncaster), Tim Malone (Springbank), Tom Nijam (Waubra), Austin Armstrong (Tatyoon), Liam Findlay (reserves), Kynan Raven (under-18.5), Harrison Monk (under-18.5)

REDAN: Tom Lamb (Koondrook-Barham), Tom Morrish (Ouyen United), Hayden Edwards (Bairnsdale), Ben Smith (Numurkah), Gus Cleary (Casterton-Sandford), Nick Hausler (Koroit) 

This story BFL previews: the new faces of the league first appeared on The Courier.