Grand final replay
Saturday, 28th April, 2018
By Tyler Hannigan
Round one of the AFL Broken Hill season concludes today as North hosts South at the Jubilee Oval in a rematch of last year’s grand final.
South once again won the Lightning Cup to give themselves a head start on the competition for the season. They snuck past North in the first round before winning the final against Central comfortably to claim their eighth consecutive preseason trophy.
The Roos held back on the recruitment front over the summer, only bringing in a handful of players across all grades. They did lose two stars including Jake Gepp and premiership captain Michael Westley.
Coach Craig Thomas has said that those gaps left by Gepp and Westley will be filled by the wealth of junior talent that is coming through. Connor Washbrook, Tyler McKenzie and Deklin Langdon have all played senior football but are set to play a bigger role in 2018.
All the regulars are there with Jordan Johns, Marc Purcell and Drew Hardy playing well last week. Marcus O’Brien and Matt Reavill missed out last week but are quality players to come back in and Casey Paull has joined brother Jarred in making a comeback after a year off.
Wade Gepp was named on a five-man bench but has been under an injury cloud and could still miss today’s game.
North went hard at attracting players to the club and succeeded in luring the likes of Zach Doyle from the Hume Football League, Kerwin Moore from Sunraysia and Reggie Betts from South Australia all of whom looked great in the Lightning Cup last weekend.
While not a new player, Tom Ragenovich is back in Broken Hill and bolsters North’s depth along with Jackson Ruddock who returns to senior football today after a horror run with injury.
In fact, North are much taller than they have been in recent seasons with the likes of Ragenovich, Ruddock and Ayden Pettitt, who also returns after a long injury layoff. Pettitt will give the Bulldogs a fighting chance against Mitch Henderson who is the competition’s premier ruckman.
Junior star Logan Berryman makes his senior debut today and North’s new-found depth is evident as star forward Anthony Henderson and Luke Larkins, who had a solid 2017 campaign, have found themselves in the Reserves.
North also have a new senior coach in Robert Hickey who previously coached South to the 2009 premiership but returned home in a way to North, the club that he played over 200 games with. Today will be the first time Hickey coaches against Thomas who was his assistant at South.
In their match-up last weekend it was the Dogs who got the jump on South but couldn’t finish off their good work. The defending premiers looked rusty but got their act together in the second half to win by one point.
Both teams are stacked with talent and this shapes up to be a cracker of a game to start both their seasons.
South’s lineup are settled and experienced, especially having played a lot of games as a cohesive unit. North is undoubtedly talented but just how the new faces and returning ones, as well as a new coach, gel will be the key to their success this season.
It could take the Dogs a few games to iron out the kinks while South will be expecting to pick up where they left off last season in which they dropped only one game on their way to a third flag in four years.