By Luke West
THERE'S a saying that if you keep knocking on the door, eventually it's going to open.
And it's a saying that resonates with Colbinabbin in the Heathcote District league given the Grasshoppers over their previous three seasons have finished 2nd (2021), 2nd (2019) and 3rd (2018) during which they have won 35 of 50 games, but a flag has eluded them.
Again, the Grasshoppers should be banging on the premiership door this year - the question is will this be the season that it finally opens?
"We have lost some good players, but we've recruited very well and filled our holes," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"I believe our improvement is going to come from within and I think the second half of our season last year showed that as well.
"We started fairly patchy last year and a lot of that was to do with the new guys we brought in and just buying into the way we wanted to play, which they certainly have now.
"I look at our guys like Laine Fitzgerald, Todd Clarke, Ben Barton, Logan Fitzgerald and Jed Brain, who won our best and fairest... these guys have been training the house down.
I look at our guys like Laine Fitzgerald, Todd Clarke, Ben Barton, Logan Fitzgerald and Jed Brain, who won our best and fairest... these guys have been training the house down- Juian Bull
"We know what we're going to get from our older guys and our locals, but I reckon those guys I've just mentioned will go to the next level this year and that's what, hopefully, takes us to the next level as a team as well."
The Grasshoppers have a mix of new and familiar faces in their recruits for 2022.
Midfielder Will Lowe is back at M.J. Morgan Oval following three years with Birchip-Watchem, while the Grasshoppers also having the experienced Tim Holobowski back at the club.
The marquee signing for the Grasshoppers, who had a 9-3 record last season, is Luke Moore from the Shepparton Swans in the Goulburn Valley league.
Midfielder Moore - who Bull has described as a ball magnet - played 10 senior games with the Swans last year and featured in the best players five times.
"He's only 21 and has also played some good football with Finley in the Murray league and also played up in the Queensland league," Bull said.
"He's a top-liner and looks like he could be the most skilled of our players."
The Grasshoppers have also added key forward James Brain and utility Jimmy McMurtrie.
"Jimmy is going to give us some great versatility; he can play midfield, out on a wing or a flank," said Bull, who has coached the Grasshoppers since 2019.
"And James Brain is the older brother of Jed. He's like a bigger version of Jed and is the sort of player who can do anything and really turn a game."
Departures from the Grasshoppers, who won their last flag in 2008, include gun ruckman Lochlan Sirett, who has returned to Birchip-Watchem, Geordie McMurtrie, James Lawless, Pat O'Brien and Nat Nixon, who have both retired, and Daniel Hill, who has headed to Western Australia.
"I've got no reason to see us sliding; we've been top two over the past couple of seasons and I'd like to think we'll be somewhere thereabouts again this year," Bull said.
"There's probably a group of eight older guys who are playing again this year, and were probably the same last year, because they think we're in that position to contend and if we weren't, they probably wouldn't still be playing.
"That's the guys like Hadleigh Sirett, Ben Southam, Lachie Ezard, Michael Battista and Tom Hill.
"Our aim will be to get our defensive mindset right, structure up really well and then attack and rebound from there."
The Grasshoppers kick off their season under lights at home on Saturday, April 2 against Elmore.
By Kieran Iles
Coaching panel: Lisa Myers, Olivia McEvoy (more to be announced).
Placing when season ended last year: Second.
Departures: Lou Dupuy, Jess Geary.
First game: at Elmore (April 2).
It's the dawning of a new era at Colbinabbin, which will enter the season minus nearly all of the familiar names from their golden grand final run from 2012-2019 and last year's team, which finished the minor round season in second place.
A perennial force in HDFNL netball, the Grasshoppers will head into the season without multiple premiership stars Lou Dupuy, who was last season's coach, and class goaler Jess Geary, while champion midcourter Olivia McEvoy is also expected to miss the bulk of the season.
That will leave the Grasshoppers with their youngest line-up in more than a decade.
Undeterred - and with plenty of star young talent at their disposal - there's a genuine buzz around Colbinabbin to see what this fresh and exciting line-up can achieve.
Colbinabbin netball operations manager Hannah Fuller said the club was fully embracing the on-court changes, starting with a new coaching panel.
The Grasshoppers will operate with a panel of coaches led at this stage by McEvoy and Lisa Myers.
On the court, the charge will be led by exciting young defender Tanzin Myers, Ella Turnbull, Ella Kerlin and Elle Palmer, while the club is hopeful of enticing Zara Myers, who is at university in Melbourne, back to play.
Given plenty of responsibility by former coach Dupuy, the Myers sisters were one of the real success stories in the HDFNL
Mardi Ryan, part of the Grasshoppers 2018 grand final line-up, will also play A-grade to help fill the breach in attack left by the departures of Dupuy and Geary, and will also take on the A-reserve coaching role.
"There's a lot of girls coming back to play, but are at university in Melbourne, so there will be bits and pieces of the season where they can't play," Fuller said.
"They are all playing in Melbourne together during the week, which is a good thing.
"I'm confident we will still have a good team, it will just be a matter of pulling it all together.
I'm confident we will still have a good team, it will just be a matter of pulling it all together- Hannah Fuller
"They're a super-talented bunch of players and quite a young team, so it will be a nice and fun season.
"We have quite strong numbers across the grades, so it's looking like we'll have some strong teams down the line."
The Grasshoppers will be put to the test early with an opening round encounter against flag favourites Elmore, which claimed last year's minor premiership, after going through the season undefeated.
Colbo was the only team to escape with a loss by under 20-goals against the Bloods last season.
The Grasshoppers will be aiming for their ninth straight grand final appearance this season and last won a premiership in 2017.
SEASON OPENER - April 2
v Elmore (h) (N)
ROUND 1 - April 9
v North Bendigo (h)
ROUND 2 - April 16
ROUND 3 - April 23
v Elmore (a)
ROUND 4 - April 30
v White Hills (h)
ROUND 5 - May 7
v Heathcote (a)
ROUND 6 - May 14
v Leitchville-Gunbower (h)
ROUND 7 - May 21
v Huntly (a)
ROUND 8 - May 28
v Lockington-Bamawm United (h)
ROUND 9 - June 4
v Mount Pleasant (a)
ROUND 10 - June 11
v North Bendigo (a)
ROUND 11 - June 18
ROUND 12 - June 25
ROUND 13 - July 2
v White Hills (a)
ROUND 14 - July 9
v Heathcote (h)
ROUND 15 - July 16
v Leitchville-Gunbower (a)
ROUND 16 - July 23
v Huntly (h)
ROUND 17 - July 30
v Lockington-Bamawm United (a)
ROUND 18 - August 6
v Mount Pleasant (h)
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