Time to fly flag and face a new season

April 12, 2018

Rennie coach Craig Ednie will be one of few familiar faces for the Grasshoppers when they host Waaia on Saturday.

Rennie will unfurl its premiership flag on Saturday, but memories of last year’s fairytale triumph could be quickly wiped from Grasshopper minds against a dangerous Waaia outfit.

Last year’s thrilling 13-point win against Tungamah will be recognised, but at least nine of the Hoppers’ premiership players won’t be part of the weekend’s contest, having departed the club.

Among them is best-and-fairest Matt Pendergast who has moved to Lavington, while other grand final stars Cameron Sudholz, Steve McKee and Lachlan Davis are also among those who have left.

Coach Craig Ednie acknowledged the reality of the situation — his club was in for a tough campaign.

‘‘The side is completely different; between the seniors and the reserves we’ve probably lost 20 to 25 guys through retirements and leaving for some better competition,’’ Ednie said.

‘‘It’s definitely different, so there’s plenty of kids who will get an opportunity. In six to eight weeks I think we’ll have a much better realisation of where we’re at.

‘‘If we can get half a dozen wins that would be pretty good with a young side.’’

Heading in the other direction is Waaia, which after recruiting some top-line talent whacked Katamatite by 101 points first-up.

Bombers coach Matt Brown, who helped himself to five goals in round one, said his unit — including the new stars — had looked sharp against the Tigers.

‘‘It’s always good to get the points in round one and Katty is usually pretty good, so I was a bit surprised with how well we played,’’ Brown said.

‘‘But we’d trained well all through pre-season, so it’s good to play well — but it’s only round one and there’s a very long way to go.

‘‘Matt Smyth in the ruck was brilliant all day and gave our mids good service and Ash Thompson was sensational winning the contested ball, which was something we struggled with last year.

‘‘Dylan Cornick on the outside was great, and Matt O’Dwyer laid 12 or 13 tackles which was another area we wanted to improve in.’’

Brown rejected the notion the Bombers were the Picola Distict league favourites — pointing to a handful of former north-west sides as major competition.

‘‘There’s a lot of unknown especially playing sides like Deni, Blighty, Strathy and Picola that we haven’t played for eight or nine years.

‘‘I think we’ll know a bit more once we’ve played everyone, but we’re certainly not talking about being favourites.’’

Ednie expected a difficult day at the office against a more experienced side.

‘‘Waaia is one of the favourites and they will give it a real shake this year,’’ he said.

‘‘They were strong last year and last week too against Katamatite, so it’s a tough task for us.’’

Blighty v Tocumwal

After a round one mauling at the hands of Berrigan, the difficult match-ups keep on coming for Tocumwal.

The Bloods couldn’t match it with the Saints on Good Friday going down by 75 points, and will need to lift to compete with a Blighty side in red-hot form away from home.

The Redeyes produced three exhilarating quarters against Katunga and took their foot off the gas in the last term to win by 19 points, an efficient 17 goals and four behinds not hurting their cause in the slightest.

Eight of those goals went to superstar Jed Brain, who put the competition on notice in his first game since winning the Pearce Medal.

Tim Garlick’s Bloods will need to be alert early against the fast-starting Redeyes, especially after being 34 points behind at quarter-time in the Good Friday showdown.

Jerilderie v Katunga

Jerilderie’s round one triumph against Yarroweyah was the first time since 2014 the Demons have won their first game of the season.

Interestingly, they went on to win the Picola District league north-west premiership that season, perhaps a sign of better things to come for the Demons after a couple of rough seasons.

They will shoot for a second straight win against a Katunga side reeling from a disappointing display against Blighty.

The Swans took three quarters to get going against the Redeyes, spotting them a 48-point gap at three-quarter time not even a barnstorming nine-goal final term could overcome.

If they can continue that sort of exciting form Jerilderie will have to produce an even higher quality than in the 19-point triumph against the Grasshoppers.

Katamatite v Yarroweyah

Katamatite will look to get its season heading in the right direction in its first home game for the year against Yarroweyah.

A 101-point loss in round one dampened the enthusiasm around the Tigers’ pre-season, but battling the Grasshoppers might prove a great chance to get a win.

Yarroweyah looked much more competitive than in recent seasons in a 15-point loss to Jerilderie, but will still need to lift to match it with the more experienced sides to break a 25-match losing streak.

Katamatite’s ambitions of a top-eight finish would be well served by a comfortable win against a side that has won just two of its past 47 games.

Hoppers co-coach Geoff Benson was pleased his side had got in the position to win in the round one contest, stating running out of legs had cost it a chance to win.

Fellow co-coach Andy Jones was on fire in round one with six goals.

Strathmerton v Mathoura

Strathmerton will enter its clash with Mathoura expecting a confident win, needing to make a statement after losing in round one.

The Bulldogs met their match in the form of the Deniliquin Rovers, slipping in the closing stages of a pulsating contest.

New Dogs Tom Campbell and Zach Betson impressed in the forward line in the six-point loss, the Roos proving too strong after Strathmerton had hit the front.

But a match against the Timbercutters seems the perfect opportunity to tick off a first win for the season.

A relatively inexperienced Mathoura side was put to the sword by Picola United and its string of weapons last weekend to the tune of 138 points.

It is difficult to see the Cutters matching it with their more seasoned opponent, especially given Strathmerton’s 179 and 93-point wins when the sides met last season.

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