EFL: Bulls shape up as benchmark

Flying Falcons: Knox Falcons are ready for a big year with midfielders like George Stuckey in good form. Picture: Sam StiglecWHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
Nanjing Night Net

The Eastern Football League division 1 season kicks off on April 21. Roy Ward runs the rule over the competition.

Division 1

Croydon

Coach: Brett Chandler

Ins: Andrew Hughes (injury).

Outs: Jarrod Wright (Balwyn).

Chances: The Blues have turned their efforts within during the off-season with a major focus on preparing their younger players for senior football. Chandler believes a lighter Damien Cupido will again be a match-winner while the return of Hughes and emergence of several other Blues will make the side better. But their best endeavours could still see them short of the finals.

East Ringwood

Coach: Bernie Dinneen

Ins: Bernie Dinneen (Bayswater), Joel Perry (Echuca), Aaron Fiora (WBFL), David Bell and Cam Purdy (both VFL).

Outs: Andrew McGuiness (travel), Anthony Van Rooyen (SFL), Dylan Werts (YVMDFL).

Chances: Dinneen has the Roos firing on cylinders leading into 2012. After a winning start to 2011 the Roos fell back to the field but an inclusion of star recruits Perry, Bell and Purdy as well as former AFL player Fiora shape the Roos as a significant challenger to Noble Park’s crown. How quickly the Roos mesh together will decide how quickly they join the top echelon of the EFL.

Norwood

Coach: Kevin Tibaldi

Ins: Scott Day (Euroa), Patrick Jones (Gippsland), Justin Gould (East Gippsland).

Outs: Leigh Williams (AFL), Michael Costello (Heathmont).

Chances: At their best the Norsemen were a dangerous side last season but lacked enough wins to make a serious impact. They will miss Williams whose goal kicking was vital but the return of Day from Euroa will add to their midfield while the club’s younger, emerging players will need to take on more responsibility if the club is to rise into premiership contention.

Knox Falcons

Coach: Jon Knight

Ins:: Jacob Castricum (VFL), Myles Krakouer (West Adelaide), Tom Chisholm (Old Hailybury), Brendan Makea (travel).

Outs: Todd Daniher (Vermont), Jye Sigersma (Upper Ferntree Gully).

Chances: The Falcons want to progress deeper into the finals in 2012. After snaring a surprise berth in the finals last season, Knight wants his side to take the next step into the top three. Castricum made a few cameos with the Falcons last season and will add class while Krakouer and Chisholm shape as match-winners. The Falcons will have to work but they could well move into the top level this season.

Lilydale

Coach: Simon Rourke

Ins: Steve Wright (Emerald), Jarrad Barden (Mt. Evelyn), Robbie Allen (Woori Yallock).

Outs: Andrew Bawden (retired), Josh Barrett (North Ringwood), Marcus Baxter (Chirnside Park), Matt Lawrence (Coldstream).

Chances: Lilydale returns to division 1 with high hopes after a memorable division 2 premiership season. But they return to find the top division just as competitive as when they were relegated. The Falcons’ much-vaunted midfield will again need to fire and the club must take every win it can to avoid getting stuck in the relegation battle late in the season.

South Croydon

Coach: Ben Delarue

Ins: Steve Dinnell and Nick King (both VFL).

Outs: Dylan Troutman (VFL).

Chances: The Bulldogs will be back on Cheong Reserve this season and look forward to a more stable year after having to fight in plenty of matches last year. Dinnell and King will add plenty to the side while Troutman will be missed but could make a few appearances if not winning selection in the VFL. With a fully fit midfield the Bulldogs will challenge plenty of sides but once again consistency and fitness will determine the club’s finals hopes.

Noble Park

Coach: Mick Fogarty

Ins: Andrew McConnell (VFL), Cohen Howell (Mulgrave), Luke McLean (SANFL), Steve Tolongs (Myrtleford).

Outs: Peter O’Brien (retired), Kyle Martin (VFL), Lachie Delahunty (VFL), Beau Dowler (VFL), Jackson Sketcher (VFL).

Chances: The outs look ominous for Noble Park but the two-time premiers have made some wise signings while also retaining proven stars such as Craig Anderson, Stewart Kemperman and Ziggy Alwan. McLean and McConnell come with good reputations, so expect Fogarty’s Bulls to be the EFL benchmark once again.

Scoresby

Coach: Scott Whyte.

Ins: Jared Goldsack (Pakenham), Jayden Hoegal (VFL).

Outs: Steve Pimm (AFNL), Anthony Vanin (ROC).

Chances: Although two-time grand final coach Dale Bower has left the Magpies, the side remains full of talent with 18 players from their grand final side returning along with key signings Goldsack and Hoegal. New coach Whyte has his side focused and ready for the season ahead. Whether they remain as strong as improved sides like Vermont, East Ringwood and Knox will be a question answered in the opening rounds.

Balwyn, East Burwood and Vermont also play in this division.