Nagambie’s quest for its third consecutive Kyabram District Football League title begins this weekend when it hosts Tallygaroopna.
The Lakers enter the match without some key premiership players, Kyle Winter-Irving, Harley Taylor-Lloyd and Mathew Martin who have moved across to Seymour.
But some experience is coming back into the side via premiership players Jack Williams and Josh Comi along with some other fresh faces.
‘‘I reckon it would probably be the biggest changeover we’ve had in the last few years since I’ve been here,’’ coach Linc Sullivan said.
‘‘If we play within the structures that we’ve had in years gone by which has held us in good stead (we should be fine) and hopefully the newer blokes I would imagine would adapt to that.
‘‘It’s good to have a different view from blokes like Daryl Harrison who’s played a lot of footy and then players like Dan Fitzpatrick, Cam Rooney as well as Josh Comi coming back, they’re good players with good knowledge.’’
Pre-season has posed new challenges for the Lakers players accustomed to another summer on the track.
‘‘It’s been as smooth as it can be, we came in with an older group and blokes are becoming fathers and other things can take priority over footy,’’ Sullivan said.
‘‘We look to the weekend I suppose in anticipation with a bit of a new-look side with a few inclusions and a few outs.’’
While Nagambie has become known for its drive and ability to adapt the Redlegs are firmly in the boat of an unknown side under new coach Kevin O’Donoghue.
But there is no better way to gain some knowledge than a match against the reigning premiers to open the season.
With a background coaching in the Goulburn Valley and Murray leagues, the weekend will be a major learning curve for O’Donoghue.
‘‘It’ll be different, I’ve never seen anything of the league, so I hope we prove ourselves to be competitive and in the contest, they’re a really strong outfit, so it’ll be a good challenge,’’ O’ Donoghue said
‘‘They’ve won the last two, they been together and know each other’s game style, so we’ll have to up our pressure — that’ll be the key because you can’t let good players dictate play.’’
Mitch Sidebottom has been a major acquisition to offset the Redlegs’ deficiencies with key position players, filling the void left by departing guns Jai Simmie and Doug Wren.
O’Donoghue said Mitch was looking strong in a pre-season match with Dylan Sidebottom also tearing up the track.
Only the first round of the KDFNL draw has been finalised in the lead-up to the opening round after Dookie United switched from Picola District Football Netball League.
United and Undera will be the recipient of a bye this weekend before starting their season in round two.
Ardmona v Lancaster
Ensuring Ardmona can field a team in the KDFNL top tier has been effort enough.
But across the off-season at the Cattery there has been plenty of devoted club people ensuring that Ardmona can be as competitive as possible in the seniors.
Having spent the majority of last season in the reserves new coach Luke Trevena is realistic about what his side can achieve.
But with Ardmona keen to gather a couple of wins this season, it will still be in for a testing game when it hosts Lancaster.
The Wombats made the top six last year and despite being crushed by Stanhope in the elimination final, they should still make their way further up the table.
Corey Carver should execute a similar game plan to outgoing coach Nick Bertoli which the players will have no trouble understanding.
How key recruits Sam and Adam Vick, Drew Barrett and Nathan Torney mould into the game plan will be instrumental in increasing its winning margins this season.
Avenel v Merrigum
Avenel will be looking to bank some wins early this season.
After losing the first four games of the year last season, the Swans were playing catchup for the remainder of it.
Having still made an impact in finals Don Stirling’s side exited in the preliminary final, but is every chance of moving past that this season.
In the quest to secure its first Kyabram District Football League premiership since 1994 former Shepparton Swans star Michael Tinkler will be a key inclusion to the team, as he sures up defensive structures.
A valuable addition to an already strong sides leaves Merrigum plenty of work to do to contend with the Swans in the opening round.
But the Bulldogs will be looking to some star power of their own as Todd Hicks and Sean Reidy have aims to impress new teammates in a testing opening-round clash.
Longwood v Rushworth
How Rushworth gels as a team this year under new coach Dave Reardon will separate the side from again finishing in the bottom four or pushing for one of the last positions in finals.
Players have come from all over and the Tigers will have an element of surprise to their game given some footballers may never have been sighted by rival Kyabram District Football League clubs.
Antonio Dionisopoulos, Joel Dunmore and Reid Staples could cause headaches for Longwood after most recently plying their trade in the Northern Football League.
The Redlegs notched two wins last season and have every intention of
building on that as Nick Brown leads the side again.
With some talented thirds players in line for senior appearances, Longwood should fill the void left by Lucas Foenander and Jarrod Winzer and the side should enjoy having the first look at Rushworth.
Stanhope v Girgarre
Stanhope will give the competition an indication of how good it can be this season when Girgarre pays it a visit.
The Lions have a dream team of co-coaches on board with Troy Auld calling the shots from the sideline as he mentors Rob Montgomery who has crossed from Tatura.
Montgomery’s class alone on the field is enough to see Stanhope challenge for the premiership, with a damaging forward line of Rohan Baldock, Cobey Aynsley and Lucas White just another added bonus.
Girgarre defenders will be working overtime on Saturday, but there will be no shortage of players working through solutions with strong numbers on the training track for the Kangaroos.
The match could prove high-scoring as Rowan Priest comes out of retirement to be crafty in his side’s attacking 50, while the impact of former Echuca United reserves playing coach Damian Dalziel should not be discounted.