The 2019 AWFA senior men's season kicks-off on Sunday with reigning league and cup champions Myrtleford the early favourites. Will the Savoys make it three leagues and four cups in a row? Or will another team emerge to end the Savoys' dominance. The Border Mail's Beau Greenway rates every club's chances.
Coach: Matt Park and Jayden Vescio
Last year: 1st (cup champions)
Key player: Daniel Kioses
Young gun: Jesse Vardanega
Gains: Remell Davis, Vitaly Leschen, Steve Cigana, Sam Morgan, Lachie Dale
Losses: Matt Park, Tom Youngs, Nagus Henry, Will Keenan
What the coach says: We’ve got to replace the goals Tommy (Youngs) and Parksy (Matt Park) brought. If anything, we’re going to be much better defensively and if you don’t concede goals, you win games.
What we say: Despite some keys losses, there's no shortage of quality at Savoy Park. Connor Caponecchia and Troy Pawlik will be like recruits after their 2018 seasons were cut short by injury. Deservedly start favourites for a third straight league and fourth consecutive cup.
Coach: Daniel Vasilevski
Last year: 2nd (cup semi-final)
Key player: Josh Masters
Young gun: Anthony Campagna
Gains: Daniel Vasilevski, Josh Masters, Mason Nhansana, Nicholas Franco, Brendan Barton, Thomas Romero, Jaxon Osmotherley
Losses: Riley Hamilton, Nathan Lee, Ivo Madeira, Jon Shaw, Stuart Vance, Julian Gaona
What the coach says: Thomas (Romero) is a winger or striker and he and Burchy (Adam Burchell) bring a lot of pace to our attack. We’ve got Brendan Barton up there as well, but we’ve rarely had them all together.
What we say: With Stoycho Ivanov no longer a visa player, Wangaratta should have a more solid structure week to week. Daniel Vasilevski has the ability to take the competition by storm if fully fit.
Coach: Andrew Grove
Last year: 3rd (cup finalist)
Key player: Dustin Patten
Young gun: Kye Halloway
Gains: Matt Mildren, Kye McMillan, Jordan Crawford, Dylan Gavel, Dylan Nhansana, Jason Colombera, Kye Halloway
Losses: Suk Bhattarai, Nathan Scott, Tanner Browne, Du Phan, Decha Saisanid, Jaxon Osmotherly
What the coach says: There's still a decent core from last year's team, but pre-season has been about trying to integrate the new guys in and get the team to gel. We're pretty happy with what we've got in place.
What we say: Have lost a lot of experience from the side that went all the way to the cup final, but have welcomed a mix of young and more seasoned players to the fold. The return of 2017 Star Goalkeeper Matt Mildren is key.
Coach: Kade Rixon
Last year: 4th
Key player: Adam Waters
Young gun: Jakob Barlow
Gains: Sam Brosolo, Dylan Roberts, Jakob Barlow, Ben Barlow, Bailey Dexter, Dylan Robertson, David Grant
Losses: Josh O’Brien, Evan Rawluk, Josh Fluss, Lachlan Arkinstall, Nick Musarra, Alex Gorka, Morgan Payne, Dylan Howe, Todd Meehan
What the coach says: We’ve lost most of our senior core, it would have been nice to have a couple of them to teach the younger ones, but it is what is.
What we say: Only Kade and Trent Rixon and Adam Waters remain from last year’s best 11 for Melrose. Trent continues to battle a hip injury and is unlikely to play many games.
Coach: Shaun Wilhelm
Last year: 5th
Key player: Jayson Ferguson
Young gun: Caleb Matchan
Gains: Jayson Ferguson, Joe Breslin, Shannon McKenzie
Losses: Josh Zito, Tyler Curran, Mat Hasler
What the coach says: We've kept the majority of the core and it gives three new guys the opportunity to play. It might even make it harder for sides to play against us not knowing what to expect.
What we say: Have lost three genuine match-winners in Josh Zito, Tyler Curran and Mat Hasler, but have found quality to replace them and should be very competitive again.
Coach: Matt Maw
Last year: 6th
Key player: Isaac Read
Young gun: Noah Sredojevic
Gains: Isaac Read, Suk Bhattarai, Isaac Piltz
Losses: Thorne Maw, Trent Duffy, Caleb Styles, Luke Davison, Michael Pertzel
What the coach says: We have had some major losses in the off-season, especially the gap left by Thorne Maw in midfield, however I have always prided myself and the club on bleeding our youth and this year will be no different. The target for the squad is a top-four finish.
What we say: Have covered the loss of midfield star Thorne Maw with Isaac Read and Suk Bhattarai. The young squad has another year under its belt and will be fighting for a spot in the top-four.
Coach: Steve McLennan
Last year: 7th
Key player: Caleb Martin
Young gun: Caleb Styles
Gains: Josh Fluss, Caleb Styles, Kris Wheeler, Gauthier Robin, Tyler Carey, James Mason
Losses: Aidan Rees, Seb Dalitz, Marty Chambers
What the coach says: We want to be very competitive. We finished seventh last year and we believe we've recruited quite well, so we want to finish in the top-four.
What we say: After a rebuilding 2018 season, there's plenty of buzz around the United camp. Josh Fluss is fit and ready to fire after crossing from Melrose and could be the recruit of the season.
Coach: Bill Puckett and Manny Artavilla
Last year: 8th
Key player: Marius Williams
Young gun: James Grant
Gains: Mitchell Speechley-Price, Lachie McDonald
Losses: Zac McLeod
What the coach says: All the young lads are another year older and the experienced boys have agreed to go again. If we get above eighth, we’ve ticked the box.
What we say: Should improve after keeping departures to a minimum and signing Englishman Mitchell Speechley-Price.
Coach: Matt Townsend
Last Year: 9th
Key player: Luke Dahl
Young gun: Kristian Shipard
Gains: Will Clifton, Harry Heath, Aidan Greaves, Rob Harrison
Losses: Jerome Dunphy, Lewis Parrett, Mitchell Anderson, Tobias Su’A, Tony Zahtila, Dylan Nabb, Paul Kinning
What the coach says: I think Jerome (Dunphy) scored 16 or 17 goals last year, that’s a big loss for any team. With only four replacing six or seven, we then rely on our younger guys to step up and fill those vacancies.
What we say: Huge losses to cover, particularly the quality of Jerome Dunphy. Will be up against it to play finals, but plenty of younger players will have the opportunity to stake their claim.
Coach: Nagus Henry
Last year: 10th
Key player: Shane Hasler
Young gun: Gabe Gray
Gains: Nagus Henry, Tory Wallace, Shane Hasler, Brendan Hasler, Cam McCormick, Josh Ray, Michael Morley, Jake Thompson
Losses: Mason Nhansana, Nicholas Franco, Dylan Gavel, Dylan Nhansana, Jason Colombera, Kye Halloway, Dylan Roberts, Jakob Barlow, Ben Barlow, Bailey Dexter, Steve Cigana, Stefan Galanakis
What the coach says: The first four games we’ve got the top-four from last year. I think we’ll be in the top-eight at the end of the season.
What we say: Have essentially lost their entire starting 11 from last season. Will need to blood plenty of youth in order to rebuild.
Coach: Phil Page
Last year: 11th
Key player: Carter Love
Young gun: Ben White
Gains: Mitchell Anderson, Brett Easton, Carlos Hassan, Carter Love, Nick Persia
What the coach says: We’ve got the core group from last year and all the new guys have been training well. It’s a different structure this year and obviously more fitness, so hopefully we can retain the ball more.
What we say: Managed just two draws last year, but should be much more competitive in 2019. Best and fairest winner Ben White has plenty of upside and should have more support around him to take his game to another level.
Coach: Mick Hughson
Last Year: Not in seniors
Key player: Aaron Sewell
Young gun: Damon Elliott
Gains: Tanar Kiffen, Rhys Jones, Jed Wilkinson
Losses: Matt Lemmon, Brandon Fleming
What the coach says: The push is to make finals, that's what everyone wants to do. We're not trying to be in it just to make up the numbers, we want to be competitive. It was always the plan to come back to seniors this year, now we’ve got to make sure we keep it that way.
What we say: Coming from a long way back after not fielding a senior side last season, but should be much more competitive with the likes of Wodonga Diamonds, St Pats and Albury Hotspurs also rebuilding.
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