HDFNL season preview: Leitchville-Gunbower

Star Leitchville-Gunbower forward Matt Perri.
Star Leitchville-Gunbower forward Matt Perri.

LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER FOOTBALL

COACH: Matt Hawken (3rd year)

LAST YEAR: Second

ARRIVALS

Joel Donehue, Brandt Gladman, Brad Ladson, Matthew Ladson, Michael Pilcher, Matt Pollock, Kaleb Quinn, Mitch Bruns

DEPARTURES

James Brereton, Will Brereton, Tom German, Joel Helman, Riley Keath, Brendan Meroli, Jarrod Nuttall, Cam Ross, Kieran Treacy, Bart Walsh, Jye Keath.

THE BASICS

Sportsbet flag odds: $4

Player points: 44

FIRST MONTH

R1: v Colbinabbin (h)

R2: v bye

R3: v Mt Pleasant (a)

R4: v Elmore (h)

PAST FIVE YEARS

2016: Second

2015: Second

2014: Third

2013: Fifth

2012: Ninth

SUMMARY

Write Leitchville-Gunbower off at your peril.

The Bombers have lost several key players from the squad that finished runner-up the previous two seasons, but an injection of youth combined with some smart recruiting has the Bombers well placed to challenge for the top three again in 2017.

Joel Donehue returns to his home club after stints with the Bendigo Pioneers and Echuca in the GVFNL.

Former Strath Storm stars Matthew Ladson and Michael Pilcher rejoin forces at the Bombers. Ladson will join a potent midfield rotation, while Pilcher will be club’s number one big man.

Ladson’s brother Brad is a super fit midfielder, who looks set to play on a wing or off half-back.

Classy midfielder Matt Pollock returns to his home club after playing more than 150 games in the GVFNL.

Mitch Bruns, nephew of Geelong great Neville Bruns, also returns to his local club having spent the past couple of years with Bungaree where he was a premiership player.

The Bombers will also promote players from last year’s under-17 premiership team, including the Pioneers-listed Brady Hore and the classy Mitch McEwan.

Q & A with Matt Hawken

Q: It’s a new-look team for the Bombers this year. What are your expectations heading into round one?

We’ve added more speed this year and from what we’ve seen in the practice matches our on-field leadership has been improved by the inclusion of Michael Pilcher, Matt Pollock, Matt Ladson, Mitch Bruns and Joel Donehue.

With all the kids coming through we’ve seen some great improvement already. We’ll be a more youthful side and that creates plenty of excitement.

We’ll aim for top three and, if our kids get going, we’ll be very hard to beat. We’ll keep developing them and it’s an exciting time for the club.

Leitchville-Gunbower midcourt ace Bianca Jones.

Leitchville-Gunbower midcourt ace Bianca Jones.

LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER NETBALL

COACH: Jodie Lake (third year)

LAST YEAR: Fourth

ARRIVALS

Victoria Weaver (Ballarat Football Netball League); Courtney West and Tahli Brereton (both elevated to A-grade).

DEPARTURES

Lauren Dehne (retired); Ange Slattery (Moama); Abbey Dingwall (Pyramid Hill);

COACHING PANEL

A-reserve: Gemma Gundry

B-grade: Melissa Peacock

B-reserve: Grace Jones

17-and-under: Leesa Windridge

15-and-under: Julie Goulding

Primary: Carmen Dye

LAST THREE YEARS

2016: Fourth

2015: Fourth

2015: Sixth

SUMMARY

THERE will be an element of freshness to Leitchville-Gunbower's team when it takes to the court for round one against reigning premiers Colbinabbin.

The Bombers, who finished fourth last season, will be without at least three players from its semi-final line-up which was beaten by North Bendigo.

They will make do without club champion and 2015 league best and fairest Lauren Dehne, who has officially retired after a stellar career.

Also gone are Ange Slattery, who has departed for Moama, and Abbey Dingwall, who has returned to her home club Pyramid Hill.

But coach Jodie Lake is excited by their replacements, with Victoria Weaving arriving via the Ballarat Football Netball League, and gun youngsters Tahli Brereton and Courtney West winning promotion from the junior ranks.

Lake, who was runner-up in last year's league best and fairest, said much focus would be on giving the Bombers' younger brigade exposure to senior netball.

"They are more than capable - they are very talented young girls," she said.

“Courtney … I played A-grade with her mum when I started coming through the ranks, so she’s got the genes.

“It will be a real exciting year for Courtney and Tahli.

A top-four berth should again be within the Bombers' reach, with plenty of quality personnel still remaining from last year’s squad.

Q&A with Jodie Lake

Q. Tell us a little bit about your new recruit Angela Weaver?

She's a very handy and versatile player for the Ballarat league.  She's a really good addition as we can slot her in (to the side) anywhere we need. She'll probably play in goals and will be a really good support for Jordy Holman at the shooting end.

Q. What are your expectations going into the season?

Of course we have finals aspirations, but it's going to be a big change this season. Our focus and success is going to be based on not where we go in the season, but how well our juniors make the transition to senior level. It might be a few steps backwards, but the focus is on getting those young girls ready for the next few years.