Moving up: Dean Grice has found a place in Port Melbourne’s senior VFL side. Picture: Cyan Sporting ImagesYOU could count on one finger how many Eastern Football League division 3 players could go straight to the Victorian Football League seniors.
That player is Dean Grice. The former Boronia midfielder left his beloved Hawks late last year after VFL premier Port Melbourne offered him a chance to do the preseason.
He has played the first two games of the VFL season in the Borough’s senior side, playing on the wing and in midfield as the club extended its league record-winning streak to 23 wins.
Initially the move cut Grice deeply as the Boronia resident was desperate to help his emerging side to a senior EFL premiership. Grice had played at the Hawks since he was nine years old.
Instead, the offer to try big league football was too good to refuse.
“I got a phone call in mid-November from the general manager asking me to come and train,” Grice said. “I’ve had offers in the past but just blown it off because I want to win a flag at Boronia.
“But this time I thought I would do it. Worse comes to worse I would come back a lot fitter. Then after a few sessions they wanted to sign me up, so I thought, why not? I didn’t want to die wondering.”
Grice played three preseason games in the Borough’s development side and was shocked to receive a late senior call-up in round 1.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” he said. “I was put on the ball straight up so I couldn’t get any nerves on the bench. I was straight in there.
“I’ve got to play my role more than chasing the footy. I let older guys get under the ball and play a more defensive role.”
Despite being just 24 years old, Grice won his third division 3 league best and fairest award last season and was still content to remain at his home club after the Hawks fell short in last year’s division 3 finals. Grice wanted nothing more than to help the Hawks to the premiership.
Grice is still based in Boronia and works full time as a tradesman while training three times at week in Port Melbourne and playing matches. “It’s been pretty hectic. I certainly don’t get to head out with my mates any more, but it’s been worth it,” he said.
Hawks president Tim Currie said Grice had left with the club’s blessings, although he had started drawing supporters away.
“We played a practice match last weekend and there were more people in the clubrooms watching Dean on ABC than watching the match,” Currie joked.
Grice said he was awed by the support of his home club. “In my first match about 30 people from the club came and watched. A few Port Melbourne people labelled it Grice’s pocket,” he said.
While Grice does miss his home club, the chance to play elite football is a huge step in his career. “We have a really good chance of going back to back, so to be part of that would be outrageously good.”
MOOROOLBARK opened its golden jubilee league season – the club was formed in 1962 – with a home fixture against Sandringham at Esther Park on Saturday.
The Barkers started well, with a good one-two down the left between Yannis Christoforou and Doug Shields supplying Brechan Adams, who turn smartly and shot just wide.
On 17 minutes, Nhlanhla Dube won a tackle and found Craig Kerr. He delivered a lovely cross-field ball to Christoforou, whose first touch took the ball too close to the Sandy goalkeeper.
The breakthrough came just before half-time. The Barkers had a free-kick in midfield, Liam Swaine put a good ball in to the near post, where Shields was waiting with a well-taken header to open the scoring.
Almost immediately, Adams skipped clear of the defence and lobbed Sandy keeper Adam Chesterton, but the ball went narrowly wide.
Following a short spell of Barker ascendancy, the home side now got careless. A game of pinball in the Barkers half saw the ball finally fall to Chris Leeming, in space about 20 yards out. He hit a lovely curling shot beyond the dive of Erik Deichen to equalise.
With just under half an hour to go, the home side produced the move of the match.
Mergs Topali, in attacking midfield, found Dube on the right wing. Some very neat interplay between the two ended with Dube crossing beautifully for Adams, whose deft glancing header gave Chesterton no chance – it will be surprising if Barkers score a better goal all year.
However, this brilliance was almost undone five minutes later, as a fine half-volley from Fitzpatrick brought a superb save from Deichen, diving low to his left.
The Barkers’ nerves were finally calmed when in stoppage time as Christoforou squared to Holly in space.
Alex Holly’s shot was stopped by Chesterton, but the substitute followed up and netted the rebound for his first senior goal to seal the win.
Barkers reserves also grabbed the three points with a 2-1 win, the goals coming from Keegan Coe and Trent Hardcastle.
Coach: Peter Bennett
Ins: Craig Folino (East Ringwood), Jess Moore (Ferntree Gully), Ryan Henderson, Lachlan Mckernan (both Vermont).
Outs: Dean Grice (Port Melbourne).
Chances: The Hawks will again shape as a premiership contender as long as they can put their best side on the field. Midfielder star Dean Grice is a major loss but Folino is as good a replacement as you could find. The Hawks will be competitive once again and with a young midfield could challenge for the flag. Moore is another key signing whose height will be valuable to the Hawks.
Coach: Steve Buckle
Ins: Michael Costello (Norwood).
Outs: David Want (Eastern Lions).
Chances: Heathmont will challenge sides in the division 3 despite it being their first season up. Expect a skilled, committed attack from the Jets, who will again look to stars Leigh Odermatt, Darren Sheen and Anthony Hickey to star.
Coach: Brett Davidson
Ins: Simon Fraser (Kyabram), Marcus Baxter (Lilydale), James Iacono (YVMDFL), Matt McNeil (break).
Chances: Expect a much fitter and deeper Panthers side this season after Davidson spent the off-season building his side’s fitness. Fraser, Baxter and Iacono should all make the senior team better. Davidson said the Panthers’ depth from players six to 16 had improved significantly.
Coach: Matt Price
Ins: Jake Uslar (YVMDFL), Matt Lawrence (Lilydale).
Chances: Club veteran Matt Price takes on the coaching reins this season and expects his club to push for a finals place. But with a young list, Price will also be patient and hope he can push his side towards a successful season. Lawrence and Uslar look likely to add quality to the Cougars’ midfield.
Coach: Brett Moyle
Ins: Max Melzer (Balwyn), Tom Buckley (Bright), Josh Barrett (Lilydale).
Outs: Daniel Walls (retired).
Chances: The Saints expect to be thereabouts once again. Walls will be a loss after kicking more than 40 goals last season but Moyle expects Melzer to make an impact at division 3 level while Buckley and Barrett should add creativity and run to the Saints’ forward line.
Coach: Nick Tennant
Ins: Ryan Grinter (NFL).
Outs: Tom Gysberts (Kilsyth).
Chances: The Redbacks again want to press for a finals berth. Whether they get there remains to be seen but expect a young, skilled side in 2012. Grinter returns to the club from the Northern Football League.
Glen Waverley Hawks
Coach: Mick Gaul
Ins: Sam Zikman (Mulgrave), Karl Schoenmaekers (VAFA).
Chances: With height up forward and strong ball-winners in midfield the Hawks won’t be pushovers.
Coach: Matt Clarke
Ins: Chris Baker (Kilsyth), Harry Melzer (Balwyn), Jarryd Briscoe (Balwyn), Sam Bates (Nunawading).
Outs: David Edgcumbe (Vermont).
Chances: After two relegations Wantirna South is looking to happier days in 2012 and possibly a finals appearance. After pumping games into their teenage senior players last year, Clarke expects his side to be much stronger this term. Melzer and Briscoe should add much-needed muscle and experience to their midfield.
Templestowe, Warrandyte, Mitcham and Whitehorse Pioneers also play in division 3.
Coach: Michael Glassborrow.
Ins: Clinton King (Keysborough), Clinton Jones (Vermont).
Chances: The Basin was shattered to miss out in last year’s elimination final, so expect it to press hard for the finals although the finals race again looks tight.
Coach: Bernie Ryan
Chances: New coach Ryan should have the Eagles up and about although he may need a season to get his side into line time before making a real push for the flag.
Coach: Nick Cox
Ins: Dean Burnell (EDFL), Anthony Willenberg (Mulgrave), Marty De Luca (Mulgrave),
Chances: Cox believes his side will start slower than last year as the Saints work towards playing their best football in the second half of the season leading into the finals. South Belgrave was heartbroken to miss out last year, so expect a more determined side in 2012. Willenberg and De Luca add size to their side while Burnell is tipped to make an impact and centurion goalkicker Lucas Appleby will go around again.
Park Orchards Sharks
Coach: Peter Nicholson
Chances: Park Orchards has already notched a win over Ivanhoe Amateurs during the preseason and hope to add more victories to their maiden EFL campaign. Nicholson is pleased with his list but the realities of the first season could see the Sharks have some tough days.
Coach: Simon Caldwell
Ins: Ton Gysberts (Ringwood), David Anderson (VAFA).
Outs: Chris Baker (Wantirna South), Adam Oxley, Jai Smith (both Wandin).
Chances: Kilsyth has focused on its young players in the off-season and will push its teenage talent into the seniors. Expect a young and exciting Cougars side. Caldwell said the spirit around the club has never been better. Hopefully, the results follow.
Coach: Chris Goodlet
Ins: Ash Froud (Vermont), Jake Straughair (break), Bryce Litchfield (Lilydale).
Chances: The Cats plan on becoming a premiership contender. With high-powered recruits like Froud and Litchfield and returning stars like captain Mark Cullen, expect them to go close. Health and fitness will be the key areas for the Cats. If they are healthy come finals time, look out. Nunawading, Forest Hill, Surrey Park, Eastern Lions and Canterbury also play in division 4.
EFL divisions 1 and 2 will be previewed next week.
KNOX Council needs to spend money now to save the Lysterfield Valley from development, the Knox Environment Society says.
Society spokesman Darren Wallace said it was pleasing the council had decided to look at creating a green wedge management plan in response to community concerns and expectations.
“A strategic plan would be money well spent. There’ll always be competing demands at budget time but we need to make the expenditure on this plan now.”
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Several councillors have said a management plan should not be considered a priority for this year’s budget. Councillors Darren Pearce and Joe Cossari agreed the council’s 2012-13 budget would be extremely tight, with other things to take priority.
A report was noted at last week’s council meeting about the green wedge zone in the Lysterfield Valley, outlining the options to give land outside the urban growth boundary maximum protection from development.
The report also looked at the potential for a planning scheme amendment to rezone green wedge 2 land (four-hectare minimum lot size) to green wedge 1 zone (20-hectare minimum) to further protect the area.
A full strategic investigation into developing a management plan would cost about $50,000.
“We’ve got incredible budgetary pressures this year,” Cr Pearce said. “We can’t just up rates to accommodate it all, we need to find savings.”
He noted the carbon tax impact, operational issues and new preschool reforms as the reason for the tighter budget.
The minimum lot size was four hectares and owners “can’t just cut it up into quarter-acre blocks”.
However, Cr John Mortimore said the green wedge management plan was a priority and the council “cannot afford to take a risk with them [green wedges]”.
“You only get one chance to keep this land, so it’s important to protect the Lysterfield Valley.”
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KNOX Council says it ready to implement federal reforms that make it compulsory to offer access to 15 hours of four-year-old preschool every week.
The council last week endorsed two new session models for its kindergartens to introduce in January as part of Council of Australian Government reforms.
Federal Minister for Early Childhood Peter Garrett applauded the council’s effort to make room for the new rules without affecting any of its other services.
Mr Garrett said the federal reforms were based on the best possible advice from childcare experts. “All the experts tell us that a year of preschool before school is absolutely necessary .”
But many municipalities have expressed concern about the feasibility of implementing the new reforms without rate rises or affecting three-year-old preschool services.
Mr Garrett said Knox Council was “showing other councils how it should be done”. “It’s exciting to see a council like Knox get stuck into and serving the needs of the kids. They worked really hard to get the reform done.”
Across most Knox preschools, there will be two sessions types from which to choose – two seven-and-a-half-hour sessions a week or three five-hour sessions.
Council officers decided these were the most suitable models for Knox after a questionnaire was circulated to parents.
Mayor Adam Gill said community spirit would be needed in some circumstances, because there would be some changes.
Liberty Avenue Preschool now operates three four-year-old preschool groups, but only two groups will be offered once the reforms are introduced.
Some three-year-old services at West Gully Preschool may need to relocate to either Alexander Magit or Windermere preschools. The reforms to four-year-old preschool also means more staff would be required.
Cr Gill said there would be no changes to fees except for the usual CPI rises.