HAVING lost its past three matches, the VFL is out to restore its standing in the state leagues when it hosts the WAFL at North Port Oval on Saturday.
Here are the players the Vics are leaning on to defeat the best of the west.
Sam Switkowski (Box Hill Hawks): much improved player who has established himself in a strong Hawks team. There isn’t much of him but there is no better tackler in the VFL, a feature of the pressure he bears as a small forward.
Nick Rippon tackles Richmond's Nathan Drummond. Picture: Michael Klein
Nick Rippon (North Ballarat): consistent and classy wingman who won the JJ Liston Trophy in 2015. Went forward to slot three goals against the SANFL last year.
Tom O’Sullivan (Port Melbourne): crafty onballer who uses his hands with the dexterity of a pickpocket. The son of long-time Carlton official and former VFA player Shane.
Nick Hind (Essendon): been a surprise package for the Dons this season and richly deserved his squad selection. The pacy defender/onballer joined Essendon from Ballarat club East Point last year.
Michael Gibbons in action last year. Photo: Tom Huntley
Michael Gibbons (Williamstown): the Seagulls rover won the Frank Johnson Medal as the VFL’s best player against the SANFL in 2016 and four months later landed the JJ Liston Trophy. Piles up possessions in the manner of Sam Mitchell. One of the Vics’ most valuable players.
Andrew Hooper (North Ballarat): slippery small forward who can sniff a goal from the entrance gates — and does like a celebration when he sets the flags waving. Played seven games with the Western Bulldogs from 2010-12. Will keep the WAFL backline busy.
Nick Jamieson (Footscray): the former Old Scotch VAFA best and fairest is in his fourth season with the Dogs and is recognised as a top-line VFL player. Can play on the wing, on the ball and half forward, and often slips in for vital goals.
Tom Wilson (Northern Blues): dynamic small man who captains the Blues and won their 2014 and ’16 best and fairest. Creative, courageous and belongs in this company.
Leigh Masters (Williamstown): the versatile Seagull is one of those players who can alter the course of a game with a burst of brilliance. Often thrilling overhead, he’ll be a key attacking target for the Vics.
Matt Hanson (Werribee): VFL coach Justin Plapp thinks so highly of the two-time Tigers best and fairest that he asked Demon Jake Melksham to clamp him in Round 4. The tough Tasmanian will be part of the VFL’s midfield unit.
Richmond’s Sam Darley. Picture: Michael Klein
Sam Darley (Richmond): the Tigers’ VFL captain and the Vics’ skipper too. The hosts will look to him to ping off half back and set up forward entries. Was at GWS and the Western Bulldogs before making Punt Rd his football address.
Eli Templeton (Port Melbourne): the former St Kilda midfielder is having such a fine first season with the Borough that club insiders are already talking up his Liston prospects. Word is the WAFL will pay him particularly close attention.
Bayley Fristch (Casey Demons): the Casey Demons forward stands out with his penetrating left-foot kicking and sure ball handling. Free of injury at last and ripening into a fine prospect.
Brett Bewley (Williamstown): a bit like Fritsch in that he’s on the rise and kicks it long and strong on the left. The Vics will be in good hands if he’s regularly punching them inside 50.
Williamstown’s Josh Newman. Picture: Josie Hayden
Josh Newman (Williamstown): the 2016 Frankston best and fairest has made a happy home at Point Gellibrand this year. Defender who takes every chance to make a dash. Brother of Sydney Swan Nic and might just have another kick in his career.
Jordan Kelly (Collingwood): had time with Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs before crossing to the Pies, where he’s valued for his leadership and good sense and skills in defence.
James Ferry (Essendon): the athletic Don will serve the Vics as a key backman and, as with a few other VFL representatives, a strong showing might prompt AFL clubs to take another look at him.
Jack Hutchins (Casey Demons): the Casey captain and full back and former Gold Coast Sun was called up early in the week as a replacement for the injured Brody Mihocek. Was probably stiff to miss on the original squad given his team-of-the-year, best-and-fairest 2016.
Andrew Moore (Box Hill Hawks): powerful and versatile, the first-year Box Hill Hawk brings to the VFL team the experience of 60 AFL games from stints at Port Adelaide and Richmond.
Jordan Lisle (Port Melbourne): the ex-Hawthorn and Brisbane forward has made a steady start to 2017 and will spearhead the VFL attack. A repeat of his seven-goal outing in Round 1 wouldn’t go astray.
Cameron O’Shea (Northern Blues): the former Port Adelaide player has been earmarked for a back-six slot and will be relied on to create as much as negate. At the heart of the Blues’ resurgence this year.
Alex Boyse (Essendon, emergency): the second-year Bomber has played only eight games but is making his reputation around VFL grounds. Sharp-eyed Dons GM Ash Brown calls him an X-factor player with speed, agility and the ability to get to positions most forwards can’t. The son of former Essendon, North Melbourne and South Melbourne player Maurice.
Chris Jones (Box Hill Hawks): the young Hawks tall was whistled up when Port Melbourne’s Khan Haretuku withdrew, and will be used as a forward option and to give Tom Goodwin a breather in the ruck. No doubt his uncle, cricket great Dean, will be cocking an eye on his performance.
Coburg captain Tom Godwin. Picture: Stuart Milligan
Tom Goodwin (Coburg): the son of former Tiger and Demon Andy and you’ll struggle to find a more wholehearted player in the VFL than the big Burger. He’s a fighter from top to toe; in every way he’ll go all day. One of four VFL captains in the line-up.
Brodie Murdoch (Port Melbourne): look for the former Saint to be used off half back, where he can run and hit targets with his left foot. Like Templeton, has made a slashing start to his Port Melbourne career.
■ Channel 7 will broadcast the state game from 2pm on Saturday. Gates open at 12.30pm, with entry adults $10, concession $5, kids 12 and under free.