CO-COACHES: Jamie Hogan (3rd year), Ryan Semmel (1st year)
LAST YEAR: Third
Ben Connelly, Jack Daley, Tim Davison, Cameron Lang, Daniel Paterson, Jacob Piccoli, Rhett Sutton, Charlie Thorpe
Jamie Garner, Alex Harper, Dylan Holden, Gavin James, Ross James, Matt Klein-Breteler, Jake Semmel, Kyle Shepherd
Sportsbet flag odds: $3.50
Player points: 42
R1: v bye
R2: v North Bendigo (a)
R3: v White Hills (h)
R4: v LBU (a)
PAST FIVE YEARS
New Huntly co-coach Ryan Semmel has described this year’s Hawks’ squad as the most talented team he’s played with at Huntly.
With that in mind, anything less than a grand final appearance will be seen as disappointing for the Hawks.
They were beaten by eventual premiers North Bendigo in the preliminary final last year and their recruiting has been based around the areas where they fell down in September - big men and midfield depth.
Ruckman/key forward Rhett Sutton headlines the recruits. Sutton has represented Victoria Country and captained Nepean’s inter-league team.
Golden Square premiership player Jack Daley returns to his home club and gives the Hawks some extra ball-winning ability. His inside work will also take some pressure off star duo Semmel and Harry Whittle.
Former Bendigo Pioneers duo Ben Connelly and Daniel Paterson will rotate through the middle as well, while Tim Davison will slot into defence.
The pieces to the puzzle are there, it’s just a matter of the Hawks putting it all together.
Q & A with Ryan Semmel
Q: The only team you didn’t beat last year was Leitchville-Gunbower. Can you take the next step this year and make the grand final?
We know we have the playing group to get us to that next level. Getting to grand finals are a hard business. You have to hope you don’t get injuries and you need some luck on your side.
The group is fitter this year and it’s the most talented team I’ve played with at Huntly. There’s no reason why we can’t take the next step.
Q: How will your midfield look in 2017?
Luke (Semmel) will be back to near his best after having a year back from his knee injury. Having him back, plus the midfielders we’ve recruited, will allow Harry (Whittle) and I to play a more outside role.
COACH: Emily Eliades (new)
LAST YEAR: Fifth
Sharna Appleby (Eaglehawk); Ashlea Jenkyn (Eaglehawk); Emma Jenkyn (Eaglehawk).
A-reserve: Emily Eliades
B-grade: Melissa Matthews
B-reserve: Melanie Biggs
17-and-under: Melissa Matthews
15-and-under: Kate Sloan
Primary: Amanda Flood
LAST THREE YEARS
NEW Huntly coach Emily Eliades says the Hawks will do everything possible to take the next step in 2017.
The Hawks finished last season in fifth place with an 8-8 record, underpinned by two wins apiece against the four teams below them, but two losses each to the four sides above them.
The challenge will be to eke out some wins over the competition’s upper echelon.
The Hawks will be bolstered by the inclusion of former Eaglehawk midcourter Ashlea Jenkin and Eagles teammates Sharna Appleby and Emma Jenkyn.
Eliades, who has switched leagues to coach the Hawks, is imploring her players to aim high.
"The energy and determination I have seen from the playing group, we are out there to ruffle a few feathers," she said.
"I think we're very capable of doing that if we stick together."
The Hawks pre-season has included solid practice match hit-outs against BFNL clubs Sandhurst and South Bendigo.
"That's tough competiton. And one of those was (Sunday week ago) in stinking hot conditions. That really sorted the girls fitness out," Eliades said.
The Hawks will have further practice matches against Kangaroo Flat this Thursday and Wycheproof on Saturday.
Q&A with Emily Eliades
Q: How have you found the move into the HDFNL from Dunolly in the Maryborough Castlemaine league?
It's different, but I love it. I bring that back to my playing group. They are giving me everything and responding to everything and making it a really pleasing transition. The only issue I see that a lot of clubs are having is a shortage of umpires. That could possibly hurt.
Q: How are the all-important player numbers looking?
We've had an injection of new players across the grades and the attendance rate at training has been really high, which has enabled us to work on a few things for the season ahead and allowed everyone really mould and gel together. Pre-season has been really good.