COACH: Matt Dillon (5th year)
LAST YEAR: Sixth.
Ed Coulthard, Jordan Gilboy, Chris McLean, Brian Mustafa, Alex Farrow, Chris McKnight.
Lachlan Ford, Bryce Fletcher, Cody Green, Aidan Moore, Callum Williamson.
Sportsbet flag odds: $21
Player points: 46
R1 v Pyramid Hill (h)
R2 v Mitiamo (a)
R3 v Inglewood (h)
R4 v YCW (a)
LAST FIVE YEARS
Newbridge coach Matt Dillon hopes a touch of luck with injuries and an influx of experience will help push Newbridge back into the LVFNL finals.
After missing out on the finals by less than three per cent in 2016, the Maroons are desperate for September action this year.
Classy midfielder Jordan Gilboy returns to the club after a stint in Western Australia and Castlemaine trio Brian Mustafa, Alex Farrow and Chris McKnight give the club some much-needed experience.
Creswick duo Chris McLean and Ed Coulthard have bolstered the Maroons’ key position stocks.
McLean can play as a key defender, while Coulthard can play in the ruck or as a key forward.
“We wanted to get some Bendigo footy experience into the group and the Castlemaine boys provide that,’’ Dillon said.
“Most of our recruits have played good senior footy and getting Jordy Gilboy back covers the loss of Lachy Ford.
“A focus was holding on to the players we had because in previous years we’ve probably lost too many players.
“We’ve held on to 90 per cent of the group, so we’re happy with that.”
Q & A with Matt Dillon
Is there one area of the ground you need to improve on most in 2017 to ensure you make the finals?
“We probably need to strengthen our defence and get some more depth through the middle.
“We had a young forward line last year which we’ll put some more time into this year. Recruiting Ed Coulthard will give us another option to play forward.
“We’ve really strengthened down back and added depth through the middle which will help with rotations and when we cop injuries. That’s really cost us in the past, particularly in the colder months when you tend to get a few more injuries.
“We’ve probably got six to eight guys that can play through the midfield now.”
COACH: Kristy Shay (new)
LAST YEAR: Premiers
Bec Green (returning to club from North Bendigo); Lauren Knight (Mitiamo); Molly Young (Mildura); Jess Collihole (Mildura).
Carmen Shevlin (retired); Fiona Themann (Adelaide Thunderbirds); Rachel Pettifer (pregnancy); Sharlene Hanning (umpiring).
Assistant coach: Gemma Steel
C-grade: Nadine Holland
C-reserve: Bec Green
17-and-under: Meg Jennings
15-and-under: Caitlin Smith
Minis: Tara Alexander
LAST THREE YEARS
WHAT'S in store for the reigning LVFNL A-grade premiers?
The Maroons broke a 48-year drought when they defeated Mitiamo for last year's title, capping an outstanding season in which they lost only one game.
They will attempt to defend that premiership with many of the same pieces of the puzzle, with a few conspicuous and important exceptions.
Assistant coach Kristy Shay has replaced Carmen Shevlin at the helm after the premiership coach retired following more than a decade of devotion to the Newbridge cause, while star defender Fiona Themann is now plying her trade in the Super league with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Class midcourter Rachel Pettifer (pregnant) will also be missing when the season starts.
But the Maroons still boast more than enough quality to again challenge for flag honours, through a pair of talented bookends in Amy Jackman and Jane King, accurate goal shooter Tara Henkel and skillful defender Megan Jennings.
Added to that, Newbridge has regained Bec Green after a stint with North Bendigo and recruited a pair of promising Mildura youngster Jess Collihole and Molly Young.
After breaking their hoodoo, the Maroons will enter the season with a strong resolve to ensure the wait between premierships is much shorter this time round.
Q&A with Kristy Shay
Q. How will it be backing up from last year's drought-breaking flag win?
We'll have a similar line-up to last year, with a few inclusions. We've lost a little bit of depth out of the talent pool with those outs. But we won't be under pressure because we are a really supportive group (of each other) and hope to be up there when it comes crunch time. The A-grade are still very experienced, with a good mix of youth and pace as well. And there's a bit of freshness with those inclusions.
What has your practice match schedule tossed up?
We had a hit out against North Bendigo a couple of weeks ago - it was a short style game, but it was still good to get out there. Next week we'll play South Bendigo at Harry Trott and we've been running in the Flora Hill competition on a Tuesday night. We've struggled to get everyone together on the same night, but we're looking forward to getting to round one.