Big clash kicks off season
Saturday, 1st April, 2017
By Tyler Hannigan
Last year’s premiers North begin their title defence today at the Jubilee Oval against a West team determined to avenge their 71-point loss in last year’s preliminary final.
The game will also kick off the coaching stints of both Phil Bell at West and North’s Chris Jones and both will be eager to start things off in the best possible way.
The Bulldogs have named a strong team with all of their big guns included. Codie Howard, Matt Garrick, Anthony Henderson and Shane Dalby have all been named up forward while Jayden Kelly, Quinton Beavan and Eddie Morgan will patrol the midfield.
They look a little light on in the backline but Jake Borlace and Keenan Ellis are experienced defenders that will be able to marshal the troops down there.
Among the new faces are the Larkins brothers Jack and Luke. Jack played for West last season while Luke has made to move to Broken Hill from Western Australia. Their father Peter is North’s assistant coach.
Cohen Bates is another former Robin that has found a new home and he’s been named on the bench along with youngsters Tyler Hicks and Brock Elliott.
West will rely on the familiar names to be competitive today. Matt Nelson, Liam King, Daniel Milne and Brett Martin will form the core of their midfield and also form, along with Hagen Grose, the team’s leadership group.
It’s imperative that these players stand up for West to be in with a chance. All are very good footballers and capable of taking to North’s powerful midfield. Second-tier players such as Ty Andrews, Callum Rosewarn and Leighton Raven will need to contribute heavily as well.
Where West are likely to struggle is up forward. Young full forward Josh Cieslik is talented but still raw and they really lack a big, mature body able to make a contest and bring the ball to ground for their small forwards.
Tom Kickett can be extremely damaging with his superb ball use and should be able to set up plays from centre-half back but the question remains about how well West can enter their 50 to allow them to kick a winning score.
West are not without a chance in this one given how North can be traditionally slow-starters to the season, especially given that they won the flag last year and no doubt enjoyed themselves. However coach Jones said that he was impressed with the condition many of them came back in, especially the senior players.
If North are close to their best then they should win this one comfortably but they can ill-afford to take the Robins lightly as they can certainly make them pay.