IT’S hard not to get excited about the 2017 Peninsula Division season.
All clubs have worked tirelessly over the summer to improve their lists and it’s exciting to report that all have achieved their objective.
Without question, this is going to be the most competitive season in years.
Those that were hoping that Frankston YCW would slip will be saddened by the fact that they have recruited arguably the best Nepean Division defender of the past 10 years in Christian Ongarello, while they have also picked up a 21 monster who stands at 205cm and weight-in at 115kg. The Stonecats do have nine listed players in the VFL, including Ryan Santon, BJ Credlin, Lachy Wallace, Anthony Bruhn and ‘Bundy’ Barry. Whilst they’ll be the team to beat, they won’t be as strong as last season.
The team who led at half time in the grand final against YCW, Mt Eliza, had some deficiencies that seem to have been remedied – ruckman Grant Goodall was a must-get, Brett O’Hanlon was playing AFL a handful of years ago and Shane Tennant arrives with big wraps. The Mounties pre-season form wasn’t great but don’t be fooled, there’s no need to be great in March.
Pines has kept its stars and Paul Scanlon is leaner and fitter than ever. With a goal-to-goal line of Edwards, Bongetti, Potts, Hendry and Hendry, they’ll be hard to beat.
Chelsea has added some quality to their list, including a late pick-up in Daly Shannon, who comes with big wraps from the Northern Territory. Karingal has picked up some good players but have lost more. Bonbeach has topped-up with real talent, including former Saint Trent Dennis-Lane and Edithvale has been aggressive in their recruiting and the likes of Bowden, Clark and Tagg will be huge ins. Michael Bussey is a gun!
Langwarrin appears to be the only club not to have had much luck in the recruiting stakes, whilst Mornington has been quieter than usual too, although Xavier Barry-Murphy has huge wraps.
The team I expect will be a bolter in 2017 is Seaford. The Tigers improved rapidly as the season went on last season and they have added some real A-Grade talent – Brayden Irving is said to be flying!
Ins: Trent Dennis-Lane (VAFA), Jason Ferraro (Central Highlands), Tom Stephens (Chelsea), Gavin Vassallo (North Central), Sam Williams (SFL), Ryan Eaton (Ellinbank FL)
Outs: Nick Alexandrou (Hampden FL), Chris Bryan (Keysborough).
Injuries to key players at key times hurt the Sharks last season and they’ll be looking for a better run in 2017. Trent Dennis-Lane, who has played at the highest level, is the obvious key to their pre-season movements, whilst they still have arguably the best player in the competition in Shane McDonald. Chris Bryan will be a loss considering his value deep forward. The Sharks won’t challenge for the title but they’ll play a role in who plays finals.
Ins: Brendan Dess (VAFA), Jack Gaze (Heathcote), Rhys Hensel (Tallangatta), Simon Mitchelhill (O&M), Matthew Mitchell (Essendon FL), Daniel Monforte (SFL), Aaron Pawel (Edi-Asp), Trent Styles (Karingal), Daly Shannon (NT)
Outs: Beau Caia (Goulburn Valley FL), Ryan & Michael Dyer (Southern FL), Hudson Thomas (eastern FL).
The Gulls have been super active in the pre-season and the result has been some more than handy recruits. Off-field stability was as important to the Chelsea FC as on-field success and they have been able to enter the 2017 season with everyone committed and on the same page. The hoops are starting from a long way back though and whilst they’ll find more consistency and make-up some ground, finals isn’t a reality.
Ins: Brent Bowden (Foster), Tom Burley (SFL), Michael Bussey (Eastern FL), Matt Clark (Foster), Dermot Cleary (VAFA), Ryde Love-Linay (VAFA), Rhett Moor (Foster), Brad Tagg (Foster), James Van-Minnen (SFL), Callan Vandyke (Foster), Tim Yeowart (SFL).
Outs: Lachlan Batten (Doveton), Shaun Jamieson (Eastern FL), Zac Muscialli (Dromana), Aaron pawel (Chelsea).
One thing we do know is that the Eagles are well coached. Personnel was an issue last season and they were a bit lean in their stocks. Some more than handy returns in Clark, Bowden and Tagg will make a difference while Bussey and Burley are significant ins. The Eagles did put a lot into Batten, however, and he doing a backflip and returning to Doveton has hurt their unlikely premiership aspirations.
Ins: Christian Ongarello (Dromana), Lachy Williams (Nepean), Macklin Raine (Maffra)
Outs: Jordan Alves (Tyabb), Aidan Fischer (Seaford).
Anyone who goes into this season not having Frankston YCW as premiership favourite needs to consider counselling. The Stonecats have lost some quality to the VFL, however, they have enormous talent underneath and have added one of the best defenders in the game in Christian Ongarello. Anthony Bruhn did a pre-season at Bulldogs, BJ Credlin at Richmond and Ryan Santon at Sandringham.
Ins: Damien Ashcroft (Paynesville), Paul Hopes (Northern FL), Andrew McInnes (Carlton), Chris McInnes (Devon Meadows), Steven Mihvec (Devon Meadows), Jesse Ramirez (VAFA), Aisea Valenti (Dolphins), Jacob Duscher (Dolphins)
Outs: Harry Czarnecki (Southern FL), Grant Goodall (Mt Eliza), Anthony Joel (Ellinbank), Aaron Paxton (Sorrento), Leigh Poholke (Sorrento), Travis Puntaroni (South East FL), Tom Wilkinson (Murray FL)
The Bulls will continue their improvement this season with some good recruits. Andrew McInnes from Carlton is the obvious big time get, while Damien Ashcroft and Aisea Valenti from Dolphins are big ins too. They would have liked to have hung-on to quality teenagers Czarnecki and Puntaroni, while skipper Paxton, Wilkinson and Goodall are significant outs. Karingal will improve a little but don’t expect too much movement up the ladder.
Ins: Jason Curry (Frankston Bombers), Jack Henderson (Devon Meadows), Owen Uaongo (SFL),
Outs: Ryan Smyth (Dromana), Kyle Bussuttil-Ingliss (Dromana), Dylan Luxa (Eastern FL), Mark McGill (AFL QLD)
The Kangas were the surprise packet last season, given all of their exits during the 2016 pre-season. Kids were given an opportunity and despite a couple of horror defeats, were genuinely competitive. Most teams in the competition have recruited well in the off-season and will improve. The Kangas haven’t been successful in the recruitment stakes and this will see them stagnate. Langwarrin will be looking for further improvement from the young talent but it won’t be enough not to finish bottom three.
Ins: Michael Barnes (Yarra Ranges), Xavier Barry-Murphy (Eastern FL), Rhys Healey (Bendigo FL), Brett McLeary (West Gippsland), Peter McGettigan (Central Highlands), Chris Williams (VAFA),
Outs: Michael Altenkirch (Tyabb), James Cameron (AFL Townsville), Ryan O’Dell (Eastern FL), Barry Smeeton (AFL QLD), Ben Wells (Alberton FL),
The Doggies have lost some top-end talent in the pre-season and the likes of Jimmy Cameron, Smeeton and O’Dell won’t be easy to replace. Coach Chris Holcombe is a craftsman though and always has the ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Mornington flew home last season and was one of the best performed teams after a slow and disappointing start – don’t expect a warm up this season from the boys in the kennel. A practice match victory over Hastings suggests the Doggies will be right in it.
Ins: Grant Goodall (Karingal), Brett O’Hanlon (Golden Rivers FL), Shane Tennant (Eastern FL),
Outs: Jack Cole (Southern FL), Matt Neratzoglou (VAFA),
At half time in the 2016 Grand Final, Mt Eliza looked the better team and many were justified in their thoughts that they would go on and win the flag. Whilst they were beaten, the Mounties know that they’re not far off. This would have spurred them during the pre-season. They have some of the best young talent in the competition and have added genuine A-Graders in Goodall, O’Hanlon and Tennant. With a year under the belt and knowing what to expect, the best coach in the business in Troy Shannon will have them right where he needs them at the right time.
Ins: Damien Lawrence (Seaford), Lachy Marshall (Pearcedale), Taylor Meyer (Southern FL), Ben Thomas (Alberton FL), Byron Tovara (Southern FL), Jordan Waite (Southern FL), Shaun White (Ellinbank).
The Pythons couldn’t afford to lose anyone in the off-season, given their skinny list, and all indications are that they have kept them all, except for a couple of retirements. Pines has been big on recruiting young talent to the club to ensure sustainable success and the likes of Lawrence and Marshall fit that bill. Shaun White returns too, which is great news. We know Pines has arguably the best four players in the competition in Aaron Edwards, Luke Potts, Paul Scanlon (has dropped seven kilos) and Tim Bongetti and if they can play every game, then Pines should be there when the whips are cracking again.
Ins: Jack Ball (Southern FL), Aiden Fischer (Frankston YCW), Daniel Lewis (Ovens & King FL), Matthew McCormack (Eastern FL), Damien Rayson (VAFA), Nick Shannon (Southern FL), Tom Shaw (Somerville), Brayden Irving (Dolphins).
Outs: Damien Lawrence (Pines),
Seaford progressed very nicely under first year coach Ben Murphy last season and you can expect the improvement to continue in 2017.
Seaford will be the bolter this season and leap into the top three with some more than handy recruits, led by ruckman Nick Shannon from Narre Warren, Matthew McCormack from the Eastern FL (Norwood), Damien Rayson from the Ammos and century goal kicker Daniel Lewis joins the returning Tommy Shaw in the forward line. Brayden Irving returns from the Dolphins, Mark Di Blasio from a knee and Dean Williamson from an ankle.
2017 Ladder Prediction: Frankston YCW, Mt Eliza, Pines, Seaford, Edithvale, Bonbeach, Mornington, Karingal, Chelsea, Langwarrin