VFL 2014 Season Preview Part 2

With 16 teams in 2014 the VFL is a mixture of AFL reserves sides – Geelong, Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and Footscray – VFL teams with AFL alignments of varying influence- Sandringham (St Kilda), Casey Scorpions (Melbourne), Box Hill (Hawthorn), Northern Blues (Carlton), Werribee (North Melbourne, part) and North Ballarat (North Melbourne, part) – and stand alone VFL sides – Port Melbourne, Frankston, Williamstown, Coburg and Bendigo Gold.

 

Sandringham

Coach: Simon McPhee,  Last season: 6 wins – 11 losses, 11th

The Zebras suffered an early set back when experienced duo of Marcus Marigliani and Chris Michaliades departed for Port Melbourne. Sandringham’s alignment with St Kilda, an uneasy relationship at times, really soured last year due to the late withdrawal of St Kilda players from Sandringham teams sometimes just minutes before the start of a match. Hopefully the relationship will improve under new St Kilda coach Alan Richardson before both parties go their separate ways at the end of the 2015 season.

The Zebras off-season included resurfacing their home ground, The Trevor Barker Beach Oval, and lengthening it by 7 metres to make it closer in size to AFL standard. As a result the Zebras won’t be in action on their home ground until Round 5. Sandringham president Gerry Ryan accepted a position as the AFL anti corruption officer and has been replaced by former Essendon head Danny Corcoran. On field for Sandringham  it looks to be another season without finals action.

 

 

Frankston

Coach: Simon Goosey, Last season: 6 wins – 12 losses, 12th

Frankston have been slowly building into a competitive unit since Simon Goosey took over the coaching reigns in 2009. Despite the loss of forward Sam Lloyd, drafted by Richmond,  and the retirement of club legend Paul Kennedy at age 35, the Dolphins now have a core of experienced VFL players including ruckman Ruseel Gabriel, and forward trio of Khan Heratuku, livewire Ziggy Alwin and Michael Lourey, who kicked 54 goals in 2013, to finish 3rd on the VFL goal kicking table. Frankston have also landed an international recruit with Alex Starling joining the club from Florida. On field last year Frankston were vastly improved from the previous three seasons managing six wins including a 90 odd  point thrashing of Sandringham – the Dolphins highest score and biggest win since 2008. All the signs point to another year of improved results for Frankston and the 4 extra wins required to play finals should be achieved.

 

 

Richmond

Coach: Tim Clarke

Richmond have left no stone unturned in their recruiting drive of ex-AFL players as they enter their own VFL team for the first time since 2000. Retired Demon Aaron Davey has joined the club as has former Saint and Sun Andrew McQualter, former Carlton midfielder Ross Young has been named captain, ex Swan Ed Barlow is on the list as is former Geelong listed forward Ryan Bathie. From the VFL, former Casey defender James Wall has been signed as has Port Melbourne midfielder Nathan Batsanis. It’s an eclectic group of signings and it remains to be seen how they will gel into a cohesive team.

However the Tigers have been dealt a favourable hand with no fewer than seven of their nine home games at the revamped Punt Road Oval scheduled prior to Richmond AFL games at the MCG –  Tiger fans should be happy with that. Tim Clarke, who was a development coach at Richmond last season and coach of Coburg, takes the reigns as Richmond’s VFL coach. A first up finals appearance may be a step to far but they could end up finishing in that dreaded position of 9th.

 

Footscray

Coach: Chris Maple

After splitting from Williamstown, the Bulldogs have opted to recruit from within signing up former Western Bulldogs players in Brent Prismal and newly appointed co captains Nick Lower and Lukas Markovic. Former Carlton and Collingwood player Jordan Russell rounds out the AFL experience on the list. Somewhat surprisingly  Footscray will play only six of their nine home games at the Whitten Oval, with two  home games at Geelong’s Kardina Park and one at the Highgate Recreation Reserve in Cragieburn, a ground Coburg played games at up until 2012 but is now mainly used as a TAC Cup venue. Footscary also have games at unusual start times (10:30am, 12:00pm to fit in prior to Western Bulldogs AFL games at Etihad)  including playing Casey Scoprions at Cragieburn at 11am on a Sunday – good luck drawing fans to that game! Footscray look likely to struggle in the VFL and will probably finish on the lower reaches of the ladder.

 

 

Casey Scorpions

Coach: Rowan Welsh, Last season: 12 wins – 6 losses, 5th

The Scorpions are solid performers in the home and away season and regular finals contenders but they will have to address their abysmal recent finals record if they are to make progress in 2014. 10 consecutive finals losses have resulted in Casey being bundled out of the finals in straight sets the last 4 seasons despite finishing in the top four. An improved relationship with the AFL affiliate Melbourne might go some way to redressing this (ie allowing AFL listed players to play VFL finals despite their AFL season being over.) The Scorpions have been fairly quiet on the recruiting front over the summer and will rely on a core of VFL veterans notably key defender Evan Panozza. Casey should once again be finals contenders but it remains to be seen if they can break their finals hoodoo.

 

Essendon

Coach: Hayden Skipworth, Last season: 9 wins – 9 losses, 8th

If Essendon were serious about winning games in the VFL they wouldn’t have ‘rested’ AFL listed players from the VFL finals as they did in 2013. Exiting the Bombers are former Melbourne player Matthew Bate and ruckmen Michael Sikora both after just one year at the club as well as key position player Trent Shinners who has moved to Weribee. Essendon have recruited former Docker Josh Mellington and gained some experience in 31- year old Wayne Shultz a former Bendigo Bomber who was playing at Strathfieldsaye in the Bendigo FL. Aaron Heppel, Dyson’s younger brother is also on the VFL list and will likely play alongside Essendon listed VFL regulars like Ariel Steinberg and Leroy Jetta. Coach Hayden Skipworth will look to get more from former Gold Coast Sun, Josh Toy in his second season at the club and the Bombers are likely to be around the lower reaches of the Top 8 once again. With Essendon building its new state of the art training facility with two grounds – one MCG size and one Etihad stadium size – there was talk that VFL games might be shifted to the Tullamarine venue. However Essendon assured it’s fans Windy Hill would remain as it’s VFL venue but they only play six of their nine home games at the traditional ground with the other three at Highgate Recreation Reserve in Cragieburn.

 

Northern Blues

Coach: Luke Webster, Last season: 8 wins – 10 losses, 9th

The Northern Blues is really Carlton reserves and thirds and pay mere lip service to their ‘merger’ with the Preston Football club who were operating as the Northern Bullants. The Blues play six home games at Carlton’s head quarters at Princes Park and just three at Preston City Oval. The red Preston jumper has been abandoned except for games at Preston and as a clash jumper, replaced with an all blue jumper. In one of the recruiting surprises of the off season, the Northern Blues picked up former Collingwood and Fremantle forward, Jack Anthony and brought in former Gold Coast defender Joel Wilkinson. Another player likely to spend time playing with the Northern Blues is former Collingwood ruckman, Cameron Wood who was drafted by Carlton after a stand out year at Williamstown in 2013. Conversely though the Blues lost a host of experienced VFL players in Kane Lambert, Adam Marson and Nick Meese to Williamstown. The Blues didn’t make finals in 2013 and with the quality of players leaving the club it looks like a long season ahead without finals action again.

 

Werribee 

Coach: John Lamont, Last season: 10 wins – 8 losses, 4th

After consecutive preliminary finals appearance in his two years in charge coach Scott West departed from Werribee at the end of the 2013 season seeking AFL coaching opportunities and was replaced by 1993 premiership player John Lamont. Lamont will want to address Werribee’s habit of drifting out of games for extended periods and allowing teams to kick multiple goals, before roaring back into contention with a run of goals of their own. On the playing front there have been plenty of changes. Skipper Robbie Castello has retired,Werribee’s most consistent performer last season, Scott Clouston, has moved to Williamstown, forward Ben McKinley has departed and Liston medalist Ben Ross has been rookie listed by Hawthorn. Exciting key forward, Ben Brown has been drafted by North Melbourne, however due to the partial alignment between Werribee and North Melbourne, Brown should continue to be seen in Werribee colours when not selected by the Kangaroos. Into the mix Werribee have added delisted Kangaroo, Ben Speight, ex-Dolphin and Bomber Trent Shinners and former cricketer Meryck Buchanan. Clearance general Jarred Moore will be the key to the midfield and Ben Warren will be the the main target up forward after 59 goals last season. Greater consistency should be Werribee’s aim in 2014 and another top four finish, possibly even a grand final berth is not beyond the Tigers.

Comments

  1. I am taking a direct interest in the WAFL this year, and you raise a very good point Ross, that I had not considered about the influence of the AFL club ‘standover men’.
    You mentioned that Melbourne and Essendon would not let AFL listed players participate in VFL finals even after their AFL seasons were over.
    I look forward to East Perth finishing top in the WAFL, and my Eagles then withdrawing all their players for the WAFL finals.
    Should finally send Les Everett completely doo lally.
    Carna Bulldogs (South Freo variety).

  2. daniel flesch says

    Peter_B , re your comment ” Melbourne and Essendon would not let AFL listed players participate in VFL finals even after their AFL seasons were over””…A contrasting story… How about Jonathon Simpkin – rejected by Swans and Cats in turn then last year playing in Box Hill ‘s Premiership team (b.o.g. , i think ) and 6 days later coming on as the sub. for the last quarter of the Big One. This year so far a regular in the ones. Journeyman makes good feelgood story even if you don’t follow Hawthorn.

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