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From the Herald Sun
Reported by Paul Amy
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THE 2015 VFL season kicks off on Friday with Werribee hosting Geelong under lights. Leader sports editor Paul Amy rounds up each club’s ins and outs.

BOX HILL HAWKS

Coach: Marco Bello

Last year: runner-up to Footscray Bulldogs

In: Cadeyn Williams (Richmond), Jack Sandric (Hobart City), Lochie Adey, James Handley (Blackburn), Matthew Burt, Chris Jones, Liam Kidd, Matthew Traynor (Eastern Ranges), Billy Murphy, Sam Switkowski (Northern Knights), James Sullivan (Tatura), Patrick Dillon (Donvale), Xavier Dimasi (Assumption/Calder Cannons), Ben Fitzpatrick (Korumburra/Bena), Dalton Graham (Sandringham).

Out: Luke Andrews, Callan Burns, Corey Cassidy, Sam Cust, Jackson Eade, Tom Goodwin, Jake Kalanj, Tom Miles, Xavier Murphy, Matt Northe, Nick Papadopoulos, Kalem Post, Michael Thompson, Brandon Wood.

The verdict: the Hawks have lost top-line midfielders in Xavier Murphy and Luke Andrew as well as the emerging Brandon Wood. But they’ve picked up former Tiger Cadeyn Williams and have good young players coming through in support of senior men Sam Iles, David Mirra, Marc Lock and Liam Tobin. Premiers in 2013 and runners-up last year, there’s no reason to think there will be a slackening of standards.

Player watch: Mitch O’Donnell. He’s as hard as a coffin nail and he’ll be granted more opportunity after an excellent pre-season.

Celebrating season 2014 with the Casey Scorpions and A Positive Move

Shannon Byrnes has joined the Casey Scorpions full time from AFL club Melbourne.
Shannon Byrnes has joined the Casey Scorpions full time from AFL club Melbourne.
CASEY SCORPIONS

Coach: Justin Plapp

Last year: 5-13

In: Shannon Byrnes (Melbourne), Jack Hutchins (Gold Coast Suns), James Munro (Sandringham), Jordan Moncrieff (Mt Eliza), Jordan Muir (Glenelg) Bayley Fritsch (Coldstream), Brandon Droessler (Kew), Chris Johnson (Dandenong Stingrays), Dale Johnson (Bairnsdale), Declan Keilty (Gippsland Power), Jake Gains (Berwick), Keegan Mason (North Ballarat), Kody Wilson (Neerim South), Liam O’Brien (Upwey), Lucas Walmsley (Dingley), Luke Hannon (East Ranges), Mitch Stanlake (Gippsland Power), Nick Battle (Garfield), Paul Pattison (Korumburra-Bena).

Out: Troy Davis, Jake Best, Jarryd Drew, Calum Shiels, Daniel Jackson, Alex Saunders.

The verdict: the Scorpions fell to 15th last year, ending their run of top-four finishes. But the list looks considerably stronger, highlighted by the addition of ex-Cat and Demon as a playing assistant coach and former Gold Coast Suns defender Jack Hutchins. Sandy dasher James Munro is another fine signing. With more depth, expect the Scorpions to make sharp improvement under new coach Justin Plapp.

Player watch: Lucas Walmsley, a rangy runner who won the Division 1 best and fairest in the Southern league last year.

Former AFL Demon and Eagle Cale Morton, with coach Peter German, has joined Coburg.
Former AFL Demon and Eagle Cale Morton, with coach Peter German, has joined Coburg.
COBURG

Coach: Peter German

Last year: 5-13

In: Cale Morton (Perth), Sean Gregory (Essendon), Lachie Johns, Rory Lehmann (Vermont), Dean MacDonald (Morwell), Tom Miles, Tom Goodwin, Matt Northe (Box Hill Hawks), Jordie Williams (Frankston), Mark Orr (Western Jets), Josh Cauchie, Aaron Christensen (Calder Cannons), Tom Gleeson (Footscray), Keenan Posar (Northern Blues), Robbie Fox (Aberfeldie), James Kroussoratis (Eltham), Matthew Huckstepp (Greenvale), Abdikhane Fitaax (West Coburg), Jedd Clothier (Northern Saints)

Out: Adam Saad, Guy Phelps, John Cooper, Jake Anderson, Omar Abdallah, Riley Hogan, Fabian Brancatisano, Jonathon Proud.

The verdict: the Lions performed creditably last year in their return as a stand-alone club, winning five games, pushing some good teams and producing a draftee in Adam Saad. Given this year’s squad is superior, the Burgers will improve, perhaps even enough to give the top eight a shake.

Player watch: Cale Morton, one of the most maligned players to ever lace a boot, but expect him to thrive under the orders of Peter German.

COLLINGWOOD

Coach: Dale Tapping

Last year: 12-6, beaten in elimination finals.

In: Jeremy Taylor (Gold Coast), Michael Still (West Adelaide), Jesse Wallin (Bendigo Gold), Jordan Collopy (returns from year off for university studies), Kieran Ellis (Murray Bushrangers), Adrian Indovino (De La Salle), Ben Monkhurst (Woori Yallock), Jackson Viola (Western Jets).

Out: Matt Suckling, Tom Couch, Lachlan Ferguson, Dylan Orval, Nick Riddle, Glenn Strachan.

The skinny: the Maggies made the finals last year, only for injuries to leave them as thin as cheap soup when they fronted up against Sandringham. They’ll feel the loss of two-time best and fairest Kyle Martin as an AFL rookie but they’ve brought in delisted Gold Coast Sun Jeremy Taylor and ex-Essendon forward Michael Still.

Player watch: Jake Williams, a product of amateur club De La Salle who, with another strong season, might bob up on a rookie list.

ESSENDON

Coach: Hayden Skipworth

Last year: 7-10-1

In: Kyle Hardingham (Essendon AFL), Marcus Marigliani (Port Melbourne), Jordan Schroder (Geelong), James Polkinghorne (Brisbane), Sam Heavyside, Liam Byrne (Bendigo Gold), Isaac Muller (Murray Bushrangers), Daniel Willis (Shepparton), Charles Lill (Swan Districts), Jydon Neagle (Wodonga Raiders), James Ferry (Greenvale).

Out: Ben Duscher, Wayne Schultz, Josh Toy, Josh Mellington, Murphy Ambrose, Alistair Kefford.

Bomber VFL fans can expect some high flying from Kyle Hardingham

The verdict: Dons GM Matty Little was the man with the golden pen in the off-season, signing Kyle Hardingham, James Polkinghorne and 2013 JJ Liston Trophy winner Jordan Schroder as well as VFL stalwart Marcus Marigliani. It more than compensated for the departure of class act Ben Duscher. The Bombers missed the top eight last season. Have a tiny drink on them storming into it this year.

Player watch: Jydon Neagle, the son of the late and great Bomber Merv. Will get his first senior looks as a 23rd player.

Alex Greenwood is off the AFL rookie list and into the Footscray VFL fold. Picture: Hamis
Alex Greenwood is off the AFL rookie list and into the Footscray VFL fold. Picture: Hamish Blair
FOOTSCRAY BULLDOGS

Coach: Ashley Hansen

Last year: premier

In: Alex Greenwood, Mark Austin (Western Bulldogs), Meyrick Buchanan (Werribee), Josh Wallis (St Bernard’s/Calder Cannons), Mitch Hannan (St Bernards), Liam Nash (Gippsland Power), Tom Sharp (University Blacks), Josh Grabowski (Bundoora), Ben Morton (Werribee Districts), Josh Huxtable (Lara).

Out: Lukas Markovic, Nick Lower, Tom Gleeson, Will Sullivan, Jase Perkins, Jesse Fortune, Hayden Walters.

The verdict: after alignments with Werribee and then Williamstown, the Doggies formed their own VFL team last year, with premiership results. The sight of exultant supporters charging on to the ground after the siren at Etihad Stadium was a highlight of the season. With discarded rookies Mark Austin and Alex Greenwood staying around, new coach Ash Hansen has a strong squad to point to a premiership defence.

Player watch: Josh Wallis, the son of club great Steve and brother of Bulldogs midfield Mitch.

Dandenong’s Blake Mullane is among a sea of Stingrays set to line up for Frankston this s
Dandenong’s Blake Mullane is among a sea of Stingrays set to line up for Frankston this season.
FRANKSTON

Coach: Patrick Hill

Last year: 4-14

In: Brandon Wood, Kalem Post (Box Hill Hawks), James Wilsen (Port Melbourne), Waylen Manson (Waratahs, NTFL), Tom Pridgeon, Grant Valles (Bendigo), Dylan Clark (Inverloch-Kongwak), Jarryd Douglas (Red Hill), Jeremy Gleeson (Peninsula Old Boys), Blake Mullane, Alex Harnett, Kyle Gray, Aaron Wilson, Matt Homfray, Jack Wheeler, Troy Jacobsen, Caleb Gray, Justin Bennett (Dandenong Stingrays), Will Crowder (NEAFL), Damien Ashcroft (Paynesville).

Out: Leigh Kitchen, Luke Potts, Michael Lourey, Nic Newman, Russell Gabriel, Zig Alwan, Scott Simpson, Jarrod Irving, Nick Boland, Shannon Taylor, Jackson Coleman, Khan Haretuku, Tim Harper, Jake Dermott.

The verdict: the Dollies have shed too many experienced hands to be talked of in terms other than the lower rungs of the ladder. But hopefully they can make steady progress under new coach Patrick Hill and bring along their young players. Talented top-ender Waylen Manson will set pulses racing if he can strike form.

Player watch: Dylan Clark, recruited from South Gippsland and a rangy type who has impressed from the day he walked through the gate.

Geelong stalwart Ben Raidme is back from a knee injury. Picture: Mitch Bear
Geelong stalwart Ben Raidme is back from a knee injury. Picture: Mitch Bear
GEELONG

Coach: Paul Hood

Last year: 9-9

In: Ryan Williams (Central Districts), Jackson Sheringham (Geelong AFL), Sandy Robinson (Port Melbourne), Matthew Farrelly (Bendigo), Simon Close (Leopold), Tom Ruggles (Leopold), Nick Dixon (South Barwon), Brenton Rees (St Joseph’s), Josh Guthrie (Sunbury/Calder Cannons), Ryley Stuhldreier (South Barwon), Marcus Thompson (Leopold).

Out: Dom Gleeson, Mark Corrigan, James Linton, Andrew Banjanin, Matt Sully, Chris Lynch, Jay Lever, Luke Bath.

The verdict: new coach Paul Hood has the task of returning the Cats to the top eight after their 9-9 and finals-missing 2014 season. He’ll have to do so without Dom Gleeson, but Ryan Williams, Jackson Sheringham and Matt Farrelly are excellent gains and Ben Raidme is back from a knee injury.

Player watch: Ryan Williams, a rugged midfielder who joins the Cats after a distinguished stint in the SANFL.

The Big O, Orren Stevenson, returns to North Ballarat from Richmond.
The Big O, Orren Stevenson, returns to North Ballarat from Richmond.
NORTH BALLARAT

Coach: Gerard FitzGerald.

Last year: 10-8.

In: Orren Stephenson (Richmond), Myles Sewell (overseas), Andrew Hooper (Glenelg), Rowan Marshall, James Richards, Keegan Mellington, Nicholas Weghtman (North Ballarat Rebels), Jarod Bacon, Jesse Collins, James Lukich (Bendigo Gold), Brody Mahoney (Cobden).

Out: Lucas Cook, Michael Searl, Oliver Tate, Sam Conroy, Chris Giampaolo.

The verdict: the Roosters have regained two of their best premiership players in Orren Stephenson and Myles Sewell and recruited combative former Western Bulldogs little man Andrew Hooper. Put with the likes of Nick Rippon, Matt Austin, Nick Peters, Nick Couch, Lachie George, Jordan Staley and Liam Hoy, there is a settled look about North. And, of course, it will be coached with a master’s touch by Gerard FitzGerald. A good, if not great, season awaits the Roosters.

Ex-Western Bulldog and Norwood captain Kieran McGuinness will line up for the Northern Bl
Ex-Western Bulldog and Norwood captain Kieran McGuinness will line up for the Northern Blues this season.
NORTHERN BLUES

Coach: Luke Webster

Last year: 7-11

In: Kieran McGuinness (Norwood), Glenn Strachan (Collingwood), Chris Mccabe, Ciaran Porter, Damandeep Aujla, Cameron Conlon, Ryan Tester, Garrett McDonagh, Jordan Perry, Zac Ballard, (Northern Knights), Lachlan Fitzpatrick, Tyrone Armitage (Manly Warringah Giants), Dyson Stevens (Parkside).

Out: Jack Anthony, Tyson Thomas, Myles Dorman, Keenan Posar, Bradyn Tagleri, Brad McCann, Michael Dufficy, Tom Grimes, Hugh Curnow, Glenn Grgic, Matt Evans, Gerard Sutton, Hayden Taylor, Josh Callaway.

The skinny: last year was a bit of a battle for the Northern Blues but hope of improvement springs from a stronger list, the senior experience granted to the likes of Sean Bolger, Sam Cattapan and Jarryd Coulson, and a steady supply of players from Carlton. Former Norwood ace and ex-Western Bulldog Kieran McGuinness is a fine inclusion and Sydneysider Tyrone Armitage should prove himself a worthy VFL player.

Player watch: Tom Wilson, a clever rover who was a popular winner of the best and fairest last year.

Former Lion Jordan Lisle will provide a target for Port Melbourne this season. Picture: Z
Former Lion Jordan Lisle will provide a target for Port Melbourne this season. Picture: Zak Simmonds
PORT MELBOURNE

Coach: Gary Ayres

Last year: 16-2, beaten in preliminary final

In: Jordan Lisle (Brisbane), Leigh Osborne (Gold Coast), Dylan Van Unen (Essendon), Khan Haretuku, Shannon Taylor, Jake Dermott (Frankston), Lucas Cook (North Ballarat), Dan Toman (Bendigo), Nathan Batsanis (Richmond), Alex Urban, Tagan Carter-Taylor, Kyle Dove, Jack Mahon, Liam Patterson, Lachlan Waddell, Mack Rivett, Josh Halsall, Alex Mioni (Oakleigh Chargers), Jarrod Healey (Eastern Ranges).

Out: John Baird, Sam Pleming, Marcus Marigliani, Adrian Bonaddio, Marcus Davies, Shane Valenti, David Fanning, Julian Rowe, Dan Connors, Sandy Robinson, Charlie Woodley, Josh Muling, Mitch Woods, Cal Thornton, Pat McMahon, Matthew Smith, Toby Plant, Dale Whelan, Rob Eddy, James Wilsen.

Port coach Gary Ayres updates fans on the club's preseason

The verdict: the Borough go into their eighth season under coach Gary Ayres minus some of their most recognisable names: long-serving captain John Baird, Sam Pleming, Shane Valenti, Adrian Bonaddio and Julian Rowe, as well as 2014 league leading goalkicker Dan Connors. But some accomplished players have come in to support top-liners Toby Pinwill, Chris Cain, Dan Noonan, Josh Scipione and James Magner. Top four, for sure.

Player watch: Dan Toman, who won the defunct Bendigo Gold’s best and fairest last year and is sure to win wider recognition as a fine on-baller.

Ex-Blue Jaryd Cachia crosses to Richmond’s VFL side.
Ex-Blue Jaryd Cachia crosses to Richmond’s VFL side.
RICHMOND

Coach: Tim Clarke

Last year: 6-11

In: Jaryd Cachia (Richmond), Devin McFarlane, Jake Aarts (Bendigo Gold), Ryan Gale (Airport West), Tyson Kruse, Jeremy Mugavin, Cameron Williams (University Blues), Anthony Scott (Old Trinity), Ben Perry (Port Melbourne), Nick Mellington (Murray Bushrangers), Tom Silvestro (Caulfield Grammarians).

Out: Ross Young, Nathan Batsanis, Ben Waite, Mitch Keddell, Aaron Davey, Luke Collins.

The verdict: there was a bit of buzz about the Tigers when they unveiled their 2014 list, but they more disappointed than dazzled. Captain Ross Young was an exception, but he’s moved on, replaced by another ex-Blue, Jaryd Cachia. There are other good gains, especially from the VAFA, and Richmond should be able to better last year’s down-the-list fizzer.

Player watch: Anthony Scott, who was chased by a number of VFL clubs on the strength of his VAFA Rising Star award last year.

Former Cat Mitch Brown is one of three ex-AFL listed players to pull on a Sandringham jum
Former Cat Mitch Brown is one of three ex-AFL listed players to pull on a Sandringham jumper this season. Picture: Colleen Petch.
SANDRINGHAM

Coach: Paul Hudson

Last year: 9-8-1, beaten in semi-finals

In: Mitch Brown (Geelong), Clint Jones, Trent Dennis-Lane (St Kilda), Darcy Brown (Old Mentonians), Max Hayes (Williamstown), Taylor Grace, Malcolm Neiwand, Jim Bazzani, Alex Spencer, Fergus Huntington, Tom Laumets (Sandringham Dragons), Jack Williams (Frankston/Dingley), Jack Toouli (Hampton Rovers), Erishmiilan Uthayakumar (Chelsea Heights), Jordan Baumgartner (Rockbank), Tom Fisher (Brighton Grammar), Jonathan Haidon (Seaford)

Out: James Munro, Piers Flanagan, Dalton Graham, Jack Beech.

The verdict: the inclusion of delisted AFL trio Clint Jones, Trent Dennis-Lane and Mitch Brown adds enormously to a club that has quietly assembled as good a group of young players in the VFL: Kenny Ong, Elliott Le Grice, Yillber Zijai, Dylan Weickhardt, Jack Noone and newcomers Taylor Grace and Malcolm Neiwand. Throw in leaders Adam Cockie, Myke Cook and Peter Shakallis, and Sandy have enough depth to cover a bad run at the St Kilda end. They won a final last year and look equipped to surpass that effort.

Player watch: Kenny Ong, a clever small forward entering his third season. Wouldn’t be out of place on an AFL rookie list.

Tasmanian Matt Hanson is set to help ease the pain of several departures from Werribee.
Tasmanian Matt Hanson is set to help ease the pain of several departures from Werribee.
WERRIBEE

Coach: John Lamont

Last year: 10-8, beaten in semi-finals

In: Aiden Adams (Mitta), Cameron Arnold (Airport West), Matt Brett (Shepparton United), Aaron Christensen (Geelong Falcons), Isaac Conway (Brisbane AFL), Joe Cousins (Mansfield), Daniel Davies (Bendigo Pioneers), Braden Ferrari (western Jets), Matt Hanson (Western Storm, TSL), Josh Helliwell (Frankston), Tom Holman (Murray Bushrangers), Bol Kolang (Werribee Districts), Luke Maddock (Geelong Falcons), Joe Maishman (Geelong Falcons), Matt Munro (Albury), Andrew Pepper (Hamilton), Matt Pickering (Bendigo Pioneers), Joe Redfern (Bendigo Gold), Mitch Vandenberg (North Launceston), Elijah Wales (Murray Bushrangers), Alex Delpapa (Bacchus Marsh).

Out: Jarred Moore, Trent Shinners, Nick Maric, Addam Maric, Sam Wormald, Jackson Davis, Ben Warren, Jarrod Mather, Jobi Harper, Dylan Jones, Sam Martyn, Samuel Zumbo, George Cameron, Meyrick Buchanan, Lachlan Fairley, Billy Henderson, Ryley Norris, Ashlin Brown, Kirk Lang.

The verdict: given that Jarred Moore, Sam Wormald, Trent Shinners, Addam Maric and Ben Warren are no longer around, it’s too much for Tiger supporters to expect their team to ascend last year’s heights. From the long list of youthful recruits, watch for Tasmanians Mitch Vandenberg and Matt Hanson to come through quickly.

Player watch: Jye Bolton, a former Collingwood-lister who took his game from handy to dandy last year.

Find out more about Willy recruit Alex Carr

2014 Morrish Medal winner Alex Carr will step out for Williamstown this season.
2014 Morrish Medal winner Alex Carr will step out for Williamstown this season.
WILLIAMSTOWN

Coach: Andy Collins

Last year: 14-4, beaten in preliminary final

In: Sam Dunell (St Kilda), Taylor Hine (North Melbourne), Caleb Hislop (Burnie), Billy Myers, Liam McMahon, Caleb Sullivan, Tom Johnstone (Western Jets), Alex Carr, Ash Di Ciero (Gippsland Power) Jacob Chisari, Jake Maher (Bendigo Pioneers), Tristian Davies (Calder Cannons), Anthony Giuliano (Sandringham Dragons), Damian Di Donato (Scotch College), Michael Locco (Blackburn), Ash Heaver (Williamstown CYMS), Joel Helman (Leitchville-Gunbower).

Out: Kane Lambert, Ryan Ferguson, Ben Davies, Steve McCallum, Anton Woods, Shaun Wyatt, Charlie Nastasi, Jordan Mead, Kirby McConnon, Max Hayes, Dale Hoghton, Reid Adams.

The verdict: start picking a team from Ben Jolley, Ed Carr, Cam Lockwood, Peter Faulks, Adam Marcon, Nick Meese, Scott Clouston, Leigh Masters, Sean Tighe, Willie Wheeler, Jack Charleston, David Fahey, Brad Mangan, Mitch Banner, Nick Sing and Jack Johnstone. Add recruits Sam Dunell, Taylor Hine, Alex Carr and Jacob Chisari. Sprinkle in on-the-rise players Jake Owen, Sam Critchley, Ben Bese, Michael Gibbons, Sean Hetherington, Jake McKenzie and Jack Dorgan. You come up with a combination that under astute coach Andy Collins can push for the premiership.

Player watch: Jacob Chisari, a Morrish Medal winner who sampled senior football at Bendigo and should break into the Willy team early.