IN + UNDER – DIVISION ONE SEASON PREVIEW

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By Matt Fotia

It’s back.

That’s right this weekend our 18 month wait for local football will finally end, as Division One, Two and Three begin their respective battles for ultimate glory.

The landscape will have changed, with football shrinking in its overall importance in recent times, but once that first ball is bounced (thrown) a sense of normality will have returned to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

There’s new clubs, new structures, new rules, new players and new coaches, so to help you break it down, the first edition of our new weekly column – In and Under – will go through each of the divisions and give you a Riser, a Slider and a Supriser.

Division One

Moving down the pyramid and we arrive at Division One.

Often cliché’d as the most even competition in local football, this year will once again see a tightly contested second tier, especially with the promotion of back to back premier Doncaster East.

A number of clubs are set to scoot up the ladder and look to take the Lions place, whilst a couple are projected to drop drastically and may be battling down the backend of the ladder for the first time in a while.

Riser – Mooroolbark had a strong finish to their 2019 campaign, and they carried that into the lengthy off-season that followed, signing a number of talented players, including players like long haired winger Austin Smith – who’s coming off a number of strong seasons at Yarra Glen and a place on Casey’s VFL list – and pocket rocket Samuel Baker, who crosses from local rival Lilydale.

The Mustangs have got a deep squad with a good age demographic and will be looking to take advantage of the finals spots that are set to open up in 2021.

Slider – It’s a toss-up between Upper Ferntree Gully and Lilydale, but I think the Falcons win this unwanted title given their consistency over recent years and the talent they’ve had exit.

2021 will be the start of some short term pain before the long term gain for the Dales.

Outgoing coach Ben Neagle got the absolute most out of the Lilydale squad in recent years and their off-season transfer activity screams the end of an era with a number of key personnel such as; Lachlan Wilson, Brad Lowe, Tori Klaas-Henry, the aforementioned Samuel Baker and Patrick Klep all set to be missing from the Lilydale Sports Oval in 2021.

Brendan Fulton will now not only be looking to not only teach a new game style, but also compete with a vastly inexperienced side in an incredibly tough division and it all spells a tough year for the Falcons.

Surpriser- It’s hard to really pick someone as a surprise packet in this division, given the even spread of talent last time out but I think newcomers Mitcham will go better than many expect.

The Tigers will have learnt from their most recent experience in this tier (2018) and will adapt the way they play to best suit.

Coach Neil Winterton is bullish about their leg speed, youthful exuberance and the work they’ve done to address key areas such as finding another key defender and tightening up their ball use.

 

Add onto this the arrival of some new rooms and the typically vocal Tiger faithful and Walker Park could be a tough place to go in 2021.

Ladder Prediction

  1. Croydon
  2. Park Orchards
  3. Mooroolbark
  4. Wantirna South
  5. East Ringwood
  6. Montrose
  7. Bayswater
  8. Mitcham
  9. Upper Ferntree Gully
  10. Lilydale

 

A tough competition to pick outside as usual, but Croydon seem clear favourites heading into the season given the additions they made and their 2019 campaign.

Park Orchards have flown under the radar but are a club on the rise, whilst Wantirna South and East Ringwood have both strengthened their lists a substantial amount.

Montrose and Bayswater definitely wouldn’t look out of place in those final two finals spots but are set for a steadying year personally.

Mitcham – as mentioned – are set to benefit from the mass departures at Lilydale and Upper Ferntree Gully and have their best chance to stay in the division for a long time.

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