ROUND one of the Maryborough-Castlemaine District Football League continues this weekend, with the matches to include a showdown between last year’s grand finalists, Navarre and Lexton.
The Grasshoppers will unfurl the premiership flag that they won in devastating fashion when they thumped the Tigers by 100 points in the 2013 grand final.
Navarre again looms as a power side this year, while Lexton should be a stronger side after its strong pre-season recruiting.
The Tigers have former coach Shane Fisher back at the helm, while the club will also have the experience of former AFL ruckman and home-grown product Darren Jolly throughout the season.
A fierce contest is expected at Navarre that should be a lot closer than their last meeting.
• Carisbrook will take on Newstead under lights in another battle featuring two of the MCDFL’s big guns.
The Redbacks, whose only loss last year was the preliminary final against Navarre, have had key departures during the off-season in reigning Berry-Powell medallist Matt Bilton, 2013 leading goalkicker Nathan Wright and former skipper Tom Wright.
Newstead was also a surprise loser in last year’s preliminary final when beaten by Lexton.
Sam Kerr, Ethan Ford and Andrew Lovett are among the departures at Newstead this season, while it has picked up former Maldon big man Pat Cummins.
• After tough seasons last year, Dunolly and Trentham will be aiming to get off to a positive start when they do battle.
The Eagles have had a significant turnover of players from last year, while Trentham is continuing its rebuilding after it was decimated at the end of 2012.
• Neighbours Campbells Creek and Harcourt will clash.
Campbells Creek showed some encouraging form during the pre-season, with one of the promising signs the form of star forward Joel Smith, who seems free of the injuries that dogged his 2013 season.
Harcourt has flown under the radar during the pre-season, but have added to their coaching ranks with the addition of Scott Whitehead as joint coach with Daniel Smith.
With a fierce rivalry between the two clubs, expect a spirited contest.
• Avoca begins what could be a challenging season at home against Natte Bealiba on Sunday.
The Bulldogs’ midfield has taken a hit with the departures of Lachlan Edwards and skipper Beau Ketchen.
Natte Bealiba will be determined to avoid a start like last year when it was 1-3 after four games, and while the Swans recovered to reach the second week of the finals, they will be keen to make their mark early this season.
However, the Swans may have to make do early in the season without forwards Mark Fitzgerald and Matt Stagg.
• It will be the Maryborough Derby on Sunday when Rovers play host to cross-town rivals Royal Park.
Rovers endured a difficult 2013 when they won just one game and finished on the bottom of the ladder, while Bushy will be determined to build on the steps it took forward in 2013.