Coach: Julian Bull (1st year)
Last year: 3rd - 12-7
Arrivals: Jono Barnett, Sam Bowers, Seamus Bromley, Todd Bryant, Julian Bull, Todd Clarke, Daniel Connors, Jeremy Morgan, Matt Riordan, Ben Southam.
Departures: Elliot Bowen, Mitch Bright, Chris Ford, Daniel Hill, Will Lowe.
Player points: 43
Last flag: 2008
R1: v Elmore (a)
R2: v LBU (h)
R3: v Heathcote (h)
Past five years:
2018: 3rd - 12-7
2017: 4th - 11-7
2016: 4th - 13-5
2015: 3rd - 13-8
2014: 6th - 8-8
Last year’s MVP top 5:
Mitch Bright - 68
David Price - 32
Damien Carmody - 31
Hadleigh Sirett - 29
Daniel Hill - 22
Last year’s top 5 goalkickers:
Ryan Hon - 41
Elliot Bowen - 40
Nick Knight - 20
Michael Battista - 20
Hugh Hamilton - 16
Q and A with coach Julian Bull
Being a new coach at the club, what did you make of the playing list when you arrived and what did you target in order for Colbinabbin to take the next step?
"Having been around the mark for a while, it shows we've got some good depth already and have some really good players, especially locals, so it was about trying to add some top end talent to the list.
"We've always been really strong as a defensive unit, so to get a few more avenues up forward in Daniel Connors and Matt Riordan is really going to help us.
"The other focus has been strengthening up the midfield as well. We've had a good midfield group, but probably not the depth, so getting some really strong midfielders in, including some big bodies who can do a lot of grunt work, has been a real key."
Given the amount of recruits coming in and their strong football backgrounds suggests competition for spots is going to be red-hot this year.
"It certainly will be and that's something we have spoken a lot about as a group seeing that we also have some really good kids coming through as well, such as the two Hamilton boys (Hugh and Cooper) on the Pioneers' list, who are going to get the opportunity to play seniors."
With so many new faces at the club this year, how big a challenge will it be early in the season in getting the side to gel?
"That has been a focus of our pre-season. We have done a lot of training together as a whole group at Romsey and we've also had training camps.
"Being able to do that, as well as four or five scratch matches among ourselves before the practice matches will, hopefully, help us early in the season."
The Grasshoppers have been around the mark for the past four years, but much like Huntly, have been thwarted by the dominance of powerhouses North Bendigo and Leitchville-Gunbower.
The Grasshoppers’ past four years includes a pair of preliminary final appearances, plus two first semi-final exits, but Colbinabbin looks primed to take the next step following its strong recruiting campaign under new coach Julian Bull, who returns to M.J. Morgan Oval after leading Wycheproof-Narraport to back-to-back flags.
The recruiting kicked off in October with the signing of ex-Richmond player Daniel Connors, who will bring plenty of X-factor to the forward line providing he has a much better run with his body - particularly his hamstrings - than last year at Sandhurst.
And the return of Matt Riordan to Colbinabbin adds another key forward to the Grasshoppers, who have lost one of their key avenues to goal of last year in Elliot Bowen.
New midfielder Todd Bryant, who has won club best and fairests in three leagues, shapes as one of the premier on-ballers in the competition, while late grunt midfield addition Todd Clarke was runner-up in Mooroopna's best and fairest last year.
However, the Grasshoppers have lost their premier on-baller of last season in Mitch Bright, who has returned to Rochester in the Goulburn Valley league, while off-season signing Shannon Broadbent has retired and won’t be taking to the field.
Connors, Riordan, Bryant and Clarke are among 10 new recruits to the Grasshoppers, who shape as one of the season’s pace-setters as they continue their hunt for a first flag since 2008.
Practice matches: v Chelsea (March 16 at Colbinabbin), v Romsey (March 30 at Romsey).
Coach: Georgia Rodger (first year)
Last year: Runners-up
Arrivals: Carly Ladson.
Departures: Holly Guerra.
Last five years: runners-up (2018); premiers (2017); premiers (2016); premiers (2015); runners-up (2014).
Q and A with coach Georgia Rodger
How has your preparation been for the new season?
“We haven’t scheduled a huge amount of practice matches. We were in discussions with another club but that fell through. We do have a few training sessions scheduled prior to the season. That’s one thing we are hoping to align a bit more this year, getting the girls together on a more frequent basis to get the team working closer together, so if push comes to show we have a few things to fall back on. But everyone is fighting fit (with their own training commitments) and raring to go.”
After a sustained period of success for the club, what are your expectations heading into the season?
“I think what we were able to pull together last year with just the one training session with everyone there under our belts and only go down by two goals against a team like White Hills was amazing. It shows the foundations and ability are definitely there, it’s matter of harnessing that and being able to tie it all together to produce some good netball. I know the girls are all keen, so I’m sure we can go one better.”
Mardi Ryan was a young player who stepped up with some important contributions late in the season. What does the future hold for her?
“She just went from strength to strength when Cobbles went down with her calf injury. Being thrown in at the high-stress time of the year (finals) at goal attack, which is a tough position to play, was amazing to watch. It’s going to be exciting to see her build on that.”
For the first time since 2016, Colbinabbin will not start the season as reigning premiers following a cliffhanger grand final loss to White Hills in last season’s premiership decider.
The Grasshoppers will also kick off their campaign with a new coach at the helm, with midcourter Georgia Rodger replacing Liz Cobbledick, who led the club to back-to-back flags in 2016-17.
On the court, the Grasshoppers will return the bulk of the line-up that has brought so much success in recent times, including Cobbledick, Olivia McEvoy, Lou Dupuy, Kate Chirnside, Jess Geary and Brydie Lawford, who Rodger expects to be absent from some games.
The loss of Hollie Guerra, who the Grasshoppers might commit to a few games, is offset by the return of multiple premiership player Carly Ladson, who returns after a one year stint with Golden Square in the BFNL.
With players spread over three locations – Bendigo, Colbinabbin and Melbourne – getting the entire playing group together for training in recent seasons has proven close to impossible, but Rodger has made improving this predicament a priority.
The Grasshoppers will have at least one practice match against Romsey on March 30, with the possibility of one other.
With such a such a talented talent-base, Colbinabbin again has the firepower to go deep into the final series, with an eighth-consecutive grand final appearance a real possibility.
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