The Eastern Football League division 2 season starts this Saturday. Roy Ward takes a look at what promises to be a tightly contested season.
Coach: Neil Winterton
Ins: Neil Winterton (Mulgrave), Aaron Walton (Norwood), Jayden Murphy (Eastern Lions), Dave Burmeister (travel).
Outs: Bernie Dinneen (East Ringwood), Steve Newman (Mooroolbark), Adrian Gawne (Upper Ferntree Gully).
Chances: Former VFL and Mulgrave star Winterton will slip right into Dinneen's shoes as playing coach, but the real question for the Waters will be whether their mid-level players are good enough to win matches. Walton, Murphy and Burmeister should all play key roles. It's time for the Waters players to stand up to the rigours and challenges of senior football, and 2012 needs to be their year.
Coach: Brett Johnson
Ins: Brett Johnson (VFL).
Outs: Troy Simmonds (break), Kayne Petifer (Northern FL).
Chances: Johnson joins a Montrose side that sits on the cusp of promotion to division 1 after its loss to Lilydale last year. The former AFL and VFL midfielder should add plenty of quality on the field and a practised, professional approach to the coaching staff, so expect big things from the Demons. The same younger stars who stepped up in the finals last year will need to stand up for the whole of 2012. The loss of Petifer's quality and creativity in attack will hurt.
Coach: Brett Fisher
Ins: Steve Newman (Bayswater), James Charge, Mark Martin and Michael Smith (all Mt Evelyn),
Outs: Darren Spence (YVMDFL).
Chances: The Mustangs had a horror start to 2011 and never recovered, but with a long off-season behind them expect to be a more dangerous side in 2012. Charge, Martin and Smith all starred in the Yarra Valley. Expect them to be equally effective in the EFL while Kire Talevski and Cameron Linford should again be leaders. Whether the Mustangs make finals will depend on their consistency.
Coach: Ryan James
Ins: Craig Skicko (SFL), Andrew Perrin (Omeo),
Outs: Neil Winterton (Bayswater), Luke Ablett (VAFA), Mitch Collins (YVMDFL), Cohen Howell (Noble Park).
Chances: The Lions have lost some high-profile players and have turned their focus to their home-grown players. The drop from division 1 hurt the club but the lessons have been absorbed so expect a fitter and faster Lions in 2012. James is a club stalwart and provides great enthusiasm to the side. Whether they are good enough to be a finals side or simply a tough competitor is up for debate but don't underestimate the Lions.
Coach: Paul Mynott
Ins: Michael Bussey (TAC Cup), James Powell (Scoresby), Jake Ryall (Scoresby), Rudi Falovic (break).
Outs: Cody Morris (travel), Kris Barlow (Vermont), Darren Jeffries (Gippsland).
Chances: The Hawks are quietly confident they can go a step further in 2012 after a heartbreaking finals exit last season. The loss of Morris and Jeffries removes quality from the side but Bussey, Powell and Falovic, a towering ruckman, fill some significant holes in the line-up. The young Hawks are a year older, a year wiser and should be in contention right to the end of the season, although whether this is their year remains to be seen.
Upper Ferntree Gully
Coach: Andy Hayman
Ins: Adrian Gawne (Bayswater), Haytham Elnakadi (Mulgrave),
Outs: David Eddy (VFL).
Chances: The Uppers will be looking to continue the gains made under Hayman in 2011. Gawne and Elnakadi should improve the side while a number of younger Uppers should establish themselves in the seniors. Whether the Uppers are good enough to challenge the best in the division remains to be seen, but they will certainly give it their best.
Coach: Scott Hunter
Ins: Mitch Hayes (TAC Cup), Travis Allen (VAFA).
Chances: The Blues shape as a much tougher proposition in 2012 with a healthier list, and the inclusion of Hayes and Allen should bolster the midfield. Hunter believes his side was unlucky with injuries last year so with a full side could press the best sides in division 2. An in-form Blues would make life hard for any opposition.
Doncaster, Doncaster East and Donvale also play in this division.