RELATED COVERAGE: The GSL’s new groove
Coach: Mark Bianconi
Last season: 1st: 20 wins, 0 losses, 60pts
Ins: Michael Sands, Brian Box, Tyson Webb, Ross Johnson, Damien Dunne and Anthony Antonelli
Outs: Dean Pyle, Tim Dawson, Jamie Robson, Jason Sands, Ben Skinner, Brodie Downie, Matthew Maselli
HALF a dozen departures from last year’s unbeaten league champion side has put question marks over Churchill’s ability to dominate again in 2015.
“We’ve lost a couple but I guess we can give a few younger guys the chance to step up, I still think we’re going to be competitive,” new coach Mark Bianconi said.
“Obviously we want to chase that league title again and have a good cup run… if we can stay in those competitions as long as possible, in the hunt, that’s the challenge we’ve got ahead of us.”
After claiming a league, cup and final series treble across the grades in 2012, the Rams seniors have secured just two cups in the past two seasons.
Bianconi said Churchill planned to be a force in all competitions this season.
“We play for top spot at the end of the season as our number one goal, but it is disappointing not to be in those competitions to win, because it gives you something else to play for,” he said.
The departure of keeper Jason Sands, captain Jamie Robson, along with key players Tim Dawson and Dean Pyle will be hard felt.
Coach: Nick D’Alessandro
Last season: 2nd: 14 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses, 43pts
Battle of Britain Cup champion
Ins: Isaac Abas (Monash), Harley Broadbent (Fortuna), Andrew Carbone (Returning from Injury), Ben Skinner (Churchill)
Outs: Liam Johnson (Warragul Utd), Daniel Edey (Studying in Melb), Gianni Romano (Travelling Overseas)
A breakout season under coach of the year Nick D’Alessandro thrust Falcons 2000 back into the limelight after a low profile era.
With the Battle of Britain Cup in the trophy cabinet, D’Alessandro is out for more success with a similar squad in 2015.
“We want to kick on really from where we went last year; we’ve got a bit of a taste for it now and it’s been a few years since we’ve had that,” D’Alessandro said.
“Whatever players have moved on have been replaced by just as good players I think… the good thing for us is we haven’t lost any players to other GSL clubs… it means we’ve sort of done right by most of the players as well.”
Golden boot winner Jesse Kennedy will again lead the attack.
D’Alessandro said Falcons were excited to play on the reinvigorated main pitch at Latrobe City Sports Stadium from day one, having been relegated to the back pitches early last year.
Coach: Lee Dastey
Last season: 3rd: 13 wins, 2 draws, 5 losses, 41pts
Top six playoff champion
Ins: Matthew Rock (returning), Chris Stoiljkovic (returning), Josh Van Der Staay (Traralgon City), Ty Georgiou (Warragul)
WITH a league championship and grand final trophy in the past two seasons, the Red Devils have again become a menacing prospect in recent times.
Key to their consistency has been the unwavering presence of coach Lee Dastey, now into his fourth season at the helm, and a steady game plan.
A “hit and miss” pre-season, with several players unavailable, has not dented Dastey’s confidence as Moe looks to regain the league title it dramatically won on the final matchday of 2013.
“I still believe we’re capable of challenging for the league championships, but it’s obviously tough with a couple of other clubs thinking along the same lines… Falcons, Churchill and Sale are some of the clubs to keep an eye out for,” Dastey said.
League best and fairest Marc Mchallam is set to return from suspension in round three and will add spark to the midfield, while the club has picked up two key recruits.
Coach: Ross McWhirter
Last season: 4th: 12 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses, 38pts
Ins: Graham Young (Northern Ireland), Chris Barclay (Northern Ireland), Adam Buchanan (Northern Ireland)
Outs: Travis Patterson (Warragul), Dean Nicholls (Melbourne), Val Chain (Newcastle), Romi Bitar (Retired)
LAST season dished up a double dose of heartache for the Swans, who finished runner-up for two trophies – the top six playoff trophy and Battle of Britain Cup – in as many weeks.
Sale has retained key men Ash Ross, Robbie Stephen and Tommy Nguyen, along with senior coach Ross McWhirter who was set to depart after the 2014 campaign.
Bolstered by a handful of Irish recruits this season, McWhirter is confident ahead of season start, though admitted consistency needed to improve.
“We know we always play good football when it comes September time, I think it’s really important we be a bit more consistent throughout the season, hopefully actually compete for the league title; we’ve been well behind the likes of Moe and Churchill and that… just more consistency in our game week-in-week-out and even being able to win games when we’re not playing that well (is key),” he said.
The Swans won a third consecutive Kendall Cup in a “next to perfect” pre-season, defeating state league side Croydon – featuring former NSL players – 1-0 in the final to take the trophy.
McWhirter said a new structure on and off the field, with Stephen joining the coaching panel, boded well for a big season at Godfrey Baldwin Reserve.
Sale’s major loss was Travis Patterson to Warragul.
Coach: Mauro de Luca
Last season: 5th: 12 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses, 38pts
Ins: Keiran Coltman (Monash Wolves/GSL Referees), Mark Bruzzese (Traralgon City), Braydon Dunne (Warragul Utd), Ivan Vekic (Traralgon Olympians), Luke Cardamone (Metropolitan area), Tim Lee (Metropolitan area), George Fkiaris (Monash Wolves)
Outs: Michael Fava (Traralgon Olympians), David O’Dowd (Traralgon Olympians), Liam McCluskey (Traralgon Olympians), Jamie Pistrin (Traralgon Olympians)
FORTUNA ’60 has entered a rebuilding phase, with a young group set to take the park under journeyman coach Mauro de Luca.
“It’s a young squad now so we’re regrouping, I’m just bringing in the youth now so the club’s sort of looking at going that way,” de Luca said.
“On the field if we can do better than last year… we’re not looking to an extreme, if anything happens above it’s a bonus.
“It’s a new squad, they’ve got to learn to play together – it’s just really bringing up the skills because it’s a young group, their skills are not up to it.”
De Luca said the pressure was off, and the club would concentrate on developing for the future.
“They’re just looking forward to it really, I think they know there’s no pressure on them so they can just go out there and learn,” he said.
Coach: Peter Lietzau
Last season: 6th: 7 wins, 7 draws, 6 losses, 28pts
Outs: Liam Anderson GK (Pegasus metro), Daniel Holt (Pegasus metro), Jack Lester (Pegasus metro), Paul Koul (Pegasus metro), Dennis Ijsermans (moved out of area, metro), Emmanuel Askew (Uni), Samuel Lietzau (Uni), Mark Bruzzese (Fortuna), Dau Mayen (moved out of area, metro), James Syke (Warragul/GSL Squad), Conor Van Der Staay (Bendigo), Josh Van Der Staay (Moe United), Thomas Sawyer (Not playing)
TRARALGON City has been decimated by wholesale losses to the playing list, with a host of young stars pursuing higher honours and education.
The Roosters have endured an exodus of about 16 talented players from its youth and senior squads, including the likes of pacey striker Dau Mayen, promising goalkeeper Liam Anderson, Manny Askew and four others trying their hand at state league level with Morwell Pegasus.
Coach Peter Lietzau said this season would be about picking up the pieces.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard, our numbers are there but not the quality of players in the seniors,” Lietzau said.
“We’re looking at developing what we’ve got and not finishing on the bottom, our main aim is just to be competitive which is going to be hard.”
Lietzau said seeing players graduate from the club was bitter sweet.
“I’ve spoken to the majority of the boys that have gone away, and all the best to them… you don’t resent that you just hope they’re happy and when they want to come back they come back,” he said.
“Disappointing from my side is we finished the year strong and we were expecting big things this year, it’s kind of put a halt to that, we’re going to be struggling for a little while until we get on our feet again and get the system right.”
Coach: Andres Nilo
Last season: 7th: 6 wins, 4 draws, 10 losses, 22pts
Outs: Ayden Kelly (Melbourne), Ross Johnson (Churchill), Isaac Abas (Falcons)
First year Monash coach Andres Nilo reckons it’s time the GSL metagame evolved.
To that end the league veteran hopes to employ an “attractive possession” brand of football to drive a young Wolves outfit, with an average age in the early 20s, to greater heights.
“We’ve got a young, good squad, we all want to achieve something at the club,” Nilo said.
“I think it’s time for the GSL to really step it up and play an attractive game, instead of always being a three at the back with one sweeper.
“It’s time to adjust to a new style and I think that’s what I want to try and bring to a young team that wants to learn and hopefully wants to win a cup, and I’d love to be able to do that at Monash,” Nilo said.
Monash enjoyed a solid pre-season, winning the Football Chaos Cup in Newborough.
“It was a good mix, we had a lot of senior players and a lot young players, I’m talking under 16 and 18 players – in the long run it’s good because they’re playing against older men – and it was good to see they adapted to a new style that I want to play,” Nilo said.
Former coach Wally Noppert will stay on in a playing capacity, while club best and fairest Chad Shelley is the key man in midfield.
Coach: Tim Armistead
Last season: 8th: 4 wins, 5 draws, 11 losses, 17pts
Ins: Dylan Fairbrother, Mark Fairbrother, Brendan Farrugia, Steve Dawson
Outs: Jayden Shaw, Jamie Dunn, Matthew Hasthorp
CLUB spirit is among the priorities for the Combine in season 2015.
With players moving on to attend university and some long term injury worries, Newborough Yallourn United hopes to bury its roots for the future.
“I think all clubs just try to build on the atmosphere within your club, try to make your players one club players, where you set those standards just like the AFL does… you try to build a family club,” senior coach Tim Armistead said.
NYU has added a spattering of experienced recruits to a side which picked up toward the end of the 2014 campaign.
“We had a very good second half of the year, but this year we’re sort of looking at starting the season a lot better than we have previously,” Armistead said.
“The boys basically are going to learn a lot more about the structures and the way we want to play and hopefully this year we can put it into the mix much earlier than what we did last year.”
The culling of the youth league has bolstered NYU’s depth with top young talent no longer tethered to the under 21 grade to ensure the age quotas were met.
Coach: Brett Matheson
Last season: 9th: 3 wins, 5 draws, 12 losses, 14 pts
Ins: Nick Waring, Kunda Abass
Outs: Peter Ilic, Shaun Bye, Mick Martin
PEGASUS endured some highs and lows on return to the GSL central division last year.
The Horsemen reached a Battle of Britain semi-final, only to be crushed by Falcons, and produced some impressive results against league heavyweights, albeit inconsistently.
Under long serving clubman Brett Matheson, Pegasus plans to break into the top six after a ninth place finish in its comeback season.
“We want to make our home ground a fortress and to be a more competitive team than last year,” Matheson said.
“Our team is very respectful and determined (and we learned last season) that team unity is key to our success.”
Pegs attacking woes which saw them score just a handful of goals last year seem to have been addressed, with five goals scored in both practice matches to date against Drouin and Olympians.
Nick Waring is a solid pick up from the club’s metro reserves and will add structure and skill to midfield.
Coach: David O’Dowd and Aaron Daniels
Last season 10th: 3 wins, 2 draws, 15 losses, 11pts
Ins: Jamie Pistrin, Liam McCluskey, Adrian Lekay, David O’Dowd
RETENTION of last year’s young squad and a sprinkling of experience added to the mix has Olympians coaches David O’Dowd and Aaron Daniels hopeful of a top four finish in 2015.
Olympians languished into 10th in 2014 with just three wins, but O’Dowd believes a few tweaks have set the Traralgon side on the right path.
“We’ve worked on defensive play, playing players in the correct position and we’ve sort of rejigged our formation a little bit to suit us better,” O’Dowd said.
“Last year we had to play players out of position to make a difference, and this year we’ve added about three… which frees them up to play their natural positions.”
The incoming coach lauded the ability of the club’s young talent, many of who gained valuable top grade experience last season.
“The enthusiasm of the young blokes, we’ve got some kids that are 15, 16 and they’re already good enough for seniors so it’s pretty exciting for myself and the club,” he said.
“We’re not looking to win it this year but definitely be right up there.”
Coach: Gareth Harris
Last season: 11th: 0 wins, 2 draws, 18 losses, 2pts
Healthy squad numbers, alleviated further by the removal of youth grade, has Tyers hopeful of bouncing back from a winless season.
A couple of new recruits and old boys returning has new senior coach Gareth Harris optimistic about the Lightning striking some blows this year.
“I think we just want to get back a bit of stability to the club, we’re probably aiming to finish mid table, we want to get out of the lower reaches… and get that little bit of competitive edge and make Tyers a bit of a fortress that it has been previously,” Harris said.
“We just need to be a bit more settled in our team selection and a little bit more secure in our structures as well… play the same system week-in week-out.
“We’re probably going to try and play a bit more attacking this year, I don’t think we’re going to sit back and try to defend all season because you don’t get anywhere doing that; we’re trying to play an entertaining brand of football and make it good to watch.”
After half a decade at Tyers, Harris received the call up for his first senior coaching appointment, and will lead a young side into battle.
He said last year’s development off the field was encouraging, and hoped to see it translate into performance on the park.
Coach: Mark Wood
Last season: N/A
Ins: John Rooney (NYU), Marcus Tawfik (Falcons), Darryn Cummings (Monash), Matt Steen (Warragul), Tom Lucas (Korumburra), Jamie Green (Pegasus metro)
TRAFALGAR has followed Morwell Pegasus’ lead and moved across from the South Division for season 2015.
Club president Dylan Wyatt said Victory would aim to replicate the Horsemen’s efforts in its return season by racking up a few wins and playing a competitive brand of football.
“Our goal is just to be competitive this year, we haven’t really set targets in terms of finals or top half of the ladder finishes, we’d just like to be able to play a good brand of football and enjoy the season,” Wyatt said.
“If we can get a few wins, pull some results and play a good brand of football I’d consider that to be a really successful year.”
Victory’s home ground is arguably the best in the league, and will be conducive to a clean style of play.
A swab of strong recruits could see Traf surprise more established central clubs.
Coach: Simon Oliver
Last season: n/a
Ins: Callum Clancy, Josh Perry, Simon Oliver
AFTER fielding under 21s and reserves in the central division last year, East Gippsland will step into the senior ranks this season.
The club has appointed Simon Oliver as senior coach, who has played at the top level in Victoria and Tasmania and has undertaken coaching programs in both Brazil and Italy.
“The club is hoping to build on previous performances and be competitive at the top level,” head coach Peter Camera said.
“A vast proportion of the reserves premiership team from 2014 is available in 2015 as are most of under 21s, a number of new players have come to club from outside the area and some former players have returned.
“This will provide some challenges at the selection table with competition for all positions being very strong.”
Freddy Fidelisi was a potent attacking threat last year in the youth league and could again be dangerous at senior level.