VFL 2014 Season Preview Part 1

The 2014 VFL Season begins on Saturday March 29 with two AFL clubs entering reserves sides increasing the number of teams in the competition to 16. Richmond have ended their alignment with Coburg and the Western Bulldogs severed ties with Williamstown with both traditional VFA/VFL cubs, Coburg and Williamstown, opting to stand alone. High level football also returns to a couple of famous Melbourne suburban venues with Richmond playing at Punt Road Oval and the Bulldogs opting to return to their former name of Footscray and play games at Whitten Oval.


North Ballarat 

Coach: Gerald Fitzgerald,  Last season: 8 wins  – 10 losses, 10th.

Premiership players and Liston trophy winners Myles Sewel and Stephen Clifton have taken a year’s sabbatical overseas robbing the side of midfield experience whilst goalsneak Billy Driscoll has retired.

Over the off season the Roosters decided to withdraw their Development League team (reserves) from the competition. With only 10 teams in the Development League and 14  teams in the VFL Seniors in 2013 the Development League fixture could best be described as chaotic with the Senior and Development League sides often playing on different days at different venues. The Roosters decided the costs and hassles of running a Development League side outweighed the benefits and so players who don’t make the Senior line up will be released to play for local clubs in the Ballarat FL. This also causes more fixturing difficulties for the Development league which is now a 9 team competition. Despite the axing of the Development League team North Ballarat’s partial alignment with North Melbourne continues with all North Ballarat aligned Kangaroos players guaranteed a spot in the Roosters Senior 22 if they are not selected at AFL level.

Ground improvements have also taken place at Eureka Stadium with a new coaches box installed in time for the NAB Challenge game in February. Despite the excellent mentoring of Gerald Fitzgerald it looks like another season outside the finals awaits North Ballarat.



Coach: Dale Tapping, Last season: 10 wins – 8 losses, 7th

Dale Tapping continues in his second season as VFL coach of the Magpies and will be looking for further improvement after exiting in the first week of finals last season. The VFL list at Collingwood has been bolstered with the addition of ex Melbourne player Tom Couch, son of Paul, and Ryan Pendlebury the youngest of the three Pendlebury brothers is following in the footsteps of Kris and Scott representing Collingwood. The Magpies have also added Jack Blair, brother of Jarryd, Joe Couch, brother of Tom, and Ned McKeown, son of 1990 premiership player Rod to their VFL Development list.

Why Collingwood, with their vast resources and financial clout,  don’t recruit  the best possible coaches and experienced former AFL players to lead their VFL team and develop their young AFL listed players is surprising. A finals spot should be achievable but don’t expect the Magpies to progress far in September.



Coach: Andy Collins,  Last season: 12 wins – 6 losses, 3rd

The Seagulls split from the Western Bulldogs in the off-season and will now run as a stand alone VFL club. Despite being fined for salary cap breaches for the 2013 season Williamstown have recruited heavily over the summer. With Brent Prismall heading to Footscray’s VFL team and Cameron Wood drafted by Carlton, Williamstown bolstered their list with former Sandringham and Essendon VFL ruckman Michael Sikora,  Northern Blues ruckmen Nick Meese and midfielder Adam Marcon, along with Werribee key position player Scott Clouston and defender Peter Faulks returned after a stint on Fremantle’s AFL list. The Northern Blues best and fairest winner, Kane Lambert, also moved to the Seagulls but not until a stand off between the two clubs was mediated by AFL Victoria. Williamstown celebrates its 150th year in 2014 and will be looking for big things from the list they have assembled under first year coach, former Hawthorn player, Andy Collins. An improvement on last year’s preliminary final loss should be the Seagulls’ aim.


Box Hill Hawks

Coach: Marco Bello, Last season:  13 wins – 5 losses, premiers

Premiership coach, Damien Carroll was upgraded to a development coaching  role at Hawthorn so the coaching reins have been handed to former Box Hill player Marco Bello. Former North Melbourne player and 2013 skipper Daniel Pratt has retired but the core of experienced VFL players remains with the handy addition of 2013 Liston trophy winner, Ben Ross, to the Hawthorn rookie list. The Hawthorn imprint is evident everywhere at Box Hill, no more so than the influence of Hawthorn ruck Coach Damien Monkhorst. No sooner had Box Hill cut one son of a Monkhorst, Ben, they replaced him with another, Zach.

Expect more of the same from the Hawks in 2014, they should be playing deep into September if not once again contesting the grand final at Etihad Stadium.


Port Melbourne

Coach: Gary Ayres,  Last season: 9 wins – 8 losses – 1 draw, 6th

Port Melbourne were hit with some major players losses at the end of the 2013 season. Frosty Miller medalist, gun full forward Dean Galea retired from VFL level as did ruckman Wayde Skipper and midfielder Nathan Batsianis moved to Richmond VFL, but Port didn’t rest on their laurels instead recruiting former Melbourne rookie James Magner, ex-Richmond bad boy Daniel Connors and Sandringham pair Marcus Marigliani and Chris Michaliades. Fortunately for lovers of genuine power forwards and cult heroes Adrain Bonnadio reversed his decision to retire at the end of the 2013 season and ‘Bonners’ will once again be patrolling the forward line at North Port Oval as only he can. Under the expert guidance of Gary Ayres 2014 should see Port Melbourne playing finals again but the top four might be a step too far.



Coach: Peter German, Last season: 6 wins – 12 losses, 13th

The Coburg Lions return to the competition for the first time since 2000 after splitting with AFL alignment partner Richmond. Coburg face a mountainous task raising the funds required to be competitive at VFL level without a steady stream of income from pokie machines  – a revenue source that is the lifeblood of other VFL clubs. However the Lions  have made the right first steps by appointing an experienced VFL coach in Peter German. German knows state league football inside out and has previous VFL experience at Casey Scorpions and Williamstown where he was coach for the past four seasons. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and a hard nosed edge to the team. On field the Lions will look to the experience of skipper Nick Carnell and best and fairest winner Daniel Venditti with no big name recruits lured to Coburg in the off season.

Coburg have been connecting with the community over the summer with the players out running clinics in the Coburg shopping strip, talking to members of the public and canvasing local businesses for sponsorship. Some players even went so far as to mow local residents lawns for free. The players have also been involved in fixing up the historic grandstand at Coburg City Oval which now goes by the new sponsors name of Piranha Park. Eat em alive Piranhas , I mean Lions. It looks to be a long season ahead for Coburg but they should secure a few wins along the way.


Bendigo Gold

Coach: Aussie Jones, Last season: 0 wins – 18 losses, 14th

The Gold have tried to make Friday night their timeslot in Bendigo with 5 night games against AFL reserves teams. The Gold  have also taken games on the road with home games at Echuca and Swan Hill. On field, second year coach Aussie Jones will be looking for improvement on last years winless season. The squad has been bolstered by the inclusion of former Perth and Frankston midfielder Jackson Sketcher,  however overall the playing list is young and inexperienced and will take time to develop into a competitive unit.

The Gold did not manage a win in 2013 losing seven games by triple figure margins. Bendigo came closest to a win in a 10 point loss to Coburg and finished the season with their biggest loss – a 201 point loss to Geelong. A chance for atonement comes in their first game of 2014 when they square off against the Cats under the lights of the Queen Elizabeth Oval. An improved showing in the opening round could set the tone for the season ahead.



Coach: Matthew Knights, Last season: 16 wins – 2 losses, 2nd

The Cats would be smarting after losing the grand final to Box Hill last season after they compiled 16 wins in the home and away season and looked untroubled through the early stages of the finals. Experienced skipper Troy Selwood has retired but the majority of the VFL line up remains intact to be complemented by the Geelong AFL players whilst ex-Essendon coach, Mattthew Knights continues at the helm for his 3rd season as coach. Given the excellent development programs at Geelong and the way the VFL side plays to win expect the Cats to be pushing for premiership success again in 2014.


  1. Thanks for the preview Ross.
    Looking forward to the 2014 VFL.

  2. Geoff Clarke says

    Why Rosco are you so negative in regards to Collingwoodfc prospects in 2014, there seems to be a lack of respect to our development. It started with your comments about our coach in the VFL final last season, we have been super competitive in recent seasons. Just another CFC hater or flog Ross

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