Coach: Travis Matheson (new)
Last year: 1st - 18-3
Arrivals: Lucas Caccaviello, Ryan Gillingham, Clayton Holmes, Henry Miller, Jarryd Pertzel, Travis Matheson, Richard Tibbett.
Departures: Josh Bowe, Glen Daly, Jonty Neaves.
Player points: 38
Last flag: 2018
R1: v Strathfieldsaye (a)
R2: v South Bendigo (h)
R3: v Maryborough (a)
R4: v Castlemaine (h)
Past five years:
2018: 1st - 18-3
2017: 2nd - 17-3
2016: 3rd - 12-9
2015: 4th - 13-7
2014: 5th - 9-10
Last season's MVP top 5:
Brodie Collins - 46
Jack Fallon - 45
Ben McPhee - 40
Gedd Hommelhoff - 39
Josh Bowe - 35
Last season's top 5 goalkickers:
Sean Williams - 64
Gedd Hommelhoff - 27
Matt Gretgrix - 26
Shaun Knott - 24
Riley McIvor - 22
Q and A with coach Travis Matheson
A lot of your playing group over the past two years have both won and lost a grand final. How have you assessed the hunger and drive the players have shown through the pre-season in your first year back at the club as coach?
"It kicked off in November and for a lot of the boys they have been a part of a grand final win and loss, so they have that comparison between the end result and that has been a real drive for the group to want to be able to experience that success again."
You've lost ruckman Jonty Neaves, who was best on ground in last year's grand final. How do you expect to cover his departure now that he is having a crack in the VFL with Coburg?
"We think we've got a multitude of options, but it might be a bit of a week-to-week basis with guys like Richard Tibbett, Jack Lawton, Shaun Knott and Cam McGlashan who can all go through there at different times.
"Jonty is a big loss, but the other thing is he only played in the ruck through the back half of last year, but we'll just play it week-by-week. We've obviously got good midfielders at ground level who can do their bit as well."
With yourself being a new coach to the competition with a lot of success behind you at Kerang, what style of footy can we expect to see Eaglehawk playing under you?
"Given the similarities to the list from last year, there probably won't be a great deal of change to the style of footy.
"We'll play to our strengths when we have the footy and then, hopefully, negate the opposition strengths when they have it.
"The main change will be just a few different faces and a different voice for the boys as well."
The Hawks have played off in the past two grand finals for a win and a loss and the signs all point to the Borough being right back in the thick of the action again this year.
Eaglehawk has kept the bulk of its premiership list intact, with the only departures being former coach and gun midfielder Josh Bowe, grand final best-on-ground ruckman Jonty Neaves and creative half-back veteran Glen Daly.
However, the Hawks wasted no time under new coach Travis Matheson adding to their premiership list - a month after their grand final win over Strathfieldsaye the Hawks had the signatures of Ryan Gillingham, Clayton Holmes and Richard Tibbett locked away.
Gillingham is a seven-time premiership player with Kerang - he captained four of them - and will slot into what's already a potent midfield alongside the likes of Jesse and Brodie Collins, Ben McPhee, Gedd Hommelhoff, Riley McIvor and co.
Holmes, who recently played in Nightcliff's flag in the Northern Territory, adds further strength to the Hawks' solid defence and will also be an assistant to Matheson.
Athletic big man Tibbett, a former Eaglehawk player, returns to Canterbury Park and will be one of the players who is used in the ruck to cover the loss of Neaves, while the Hawks will also get Trent Bacon, formerly on the Bendigo Gold's list, back following a round one knee injury last season.
And Jarryd Pertzel, who played three VFL games with Frankston last year, is a midfield/flanker also joining the Hawks, who suffered a pre-season injury blow to reigning best and fairest Jack Fallon.
Utility Fallon suffered a partial tear of his ACL surfing in Bali, but could be back in action by round two or three, while Matheson says veteran forward Matt Gretgrix is still having some issues with the knee injury that cost him the chance of playing in the Hawks' flag last year.
Strong recruiting that has topped up a premiership list, coupled with a super blend of youth and experience, has the Hawks - who have gone two full seasons without losing at home - once again primed to challenge for back-to-back flags.
Practice matches - v Shepparton United (March 23 at Eaglehawk), v North Ballarat (March 30 at Eaglehawk).
Related: HDFNL club previews
Related: LVFNL club previews
Coach: Mali Roberts (third year) and Allira Holmes (first year)
Last year: Fourth
Arrivals: Allira Holmes, Delainey Holmes, Lauren Miller, Renae Sheridan, Gracie Berryman.
Departures: Dayna McGough, Georgie Hyett, Genevieve McColl, Rani Madden.
Coaching panel: Allira Holmes and Mali Roberts (A-grade and A-reserve); Cassie O'Toole (B-grade); Lisa Broad (B-reserve); Simone Forster (B-reserve assistant)l Simone Forster and Shannon Dean (17-and-under).
Last five years: Fourth (2018); fifth (2017); eighth (2016); eighth (2015); 10th (2014).
Q and A with joint coach Mali Roberts
How would you assess your pre-season, in particular the recruiting side of things?
"We have been happy with our new recruits this year across all of our grades. It is healthy to have new players coming through. All of our girls have done a great job adapting to new coaches and players, and different experiences and areas of development. We have a few in our A-squad that certainly bring a different dynamic to our game and we are looking forward to seeing them all in action."
There's obviously a change at the top with Allira joining you as joint coach. How has that worked early on?
"It has worked great. We share the load and it has provided more flexibility around our work commitments and different perspectives with Allira on court and me on the side line. We have a similar coaching philosophy and standards which has helped in a smooth transition."
The team has improved each year under your direction. Just how tough do you anticipate it will be to crack that top two with grand finalists Sandhurst and Gisborne and others again looking strong?
"It will always be tough against those two teams. They are well rounded and respected. All teams we won't take lightly. You never know what you will get on the day. Of course as a club we'd like to improve one step further for all grades but as usual we will take one game at a time. Our girls are hungry and determined to do well. We still have a few things to cover prior to game one, but Allira and I believe we are definitely on track for a successful season."
Eaglehawk has taken giant strides in Mali Roberts' two years as coach, transitioning from an eighth-placed side in 2016, to a back-to-back finalist in 2017-18.
The challenge now is to take the next step and cement a top three berth and challenge for a premiership.
The Hawks looked like doing that for most of 2018, but bowed out of the finals race in straight sets against Gisborne and Kangaroo Flat to end the season in fourth place.
The loss to the Roos was the Hawks' third consecutive in finals after they lost to the same team in the 2017 elimination final.
That can only steel them as they head into the new season.
Talent-wise the Hawks will be stronger with the addition of one of the league's premier defenders in Allira Holmes, who has come across from Golden Square, and will share the coaching duties with Roberts.
Holmes was the coach when Golden Square last reached the grand final in 2017 and was best-on-court in the Bulldogs' last flag in 2015.
She joins class former team-mates Abbey and Ashley Ryan at Canterbury Park and bolsters a defence that will be further strengthened by the inclusion of Lauren Miller, who captained Loddon Valley league grand finalist Calivil United last season.
At the other end of the court, Imogen Davies has won promotion to A-grade and will fill the breach left by the departure of Dayna McGough to North Bendigo.
Add in Elley Lawton and Bridget Murray and Eaglehawk has the talent to be a major threat in the premiership race.
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