I'll update this thread when I get back to Aus tomorrow, but I'll start the thread up for discussion now.
Coburg hosting Port at the newly named Piranha Park.
Paul Amy previews the game here:
Old rivalries smoulder as Port takes on Coburg for the opening round of the VFL
PORT PHILLIP LEADER
MARCH 26, 2014 12:00AM
AS COMMENTATOR and former Coburg player Phil Cleary has often lamented, most of the suburban rivalries played out so spiritedly and occasionally controversially in the VFA were lost when the VFL was revamped in 2000.
Alignments eroded passion and interest, and what Cleary calls the ‘‘tribalism’’ between clubs became more like meetings.
Port Melbourne and Cleary’s Coburg were among the keenest protagonists in the old association, playing out some tremendous tussles in its halcyon days in the 1970s and early 1980s.
With the Burgers splitting with Richmond, hostilities will resume as stand-alone entities in Round 1 at City Oval on Saturday.
There is a buzz about Coburg. A few weeks ago its players spread out across the City of Moreland bearing the message that the Lions were back. Past players have returned to the fold and a season launch last weekend was well attended. Memberships and sponsorships are up.
While it will take Coburg time to climb to the top eight, Port Melbourne is aiming to be there for the seventh consecutive season under the coaching of Gary Ayres.
A cluster of new players will wear the red and blue jumper for the first time after a sizeable turnover of the 2013 list.
Dean Galea, Wayde Skipper, Nathan Batsanis, Billy Burstin and Michael Dillon, 2011 premiership players all, moved on, as did Ryan Gale, Marc Johnston, Heath O’Farrell, Clayton Hinkley, Myles Pitt and Danny Hughes.
For a while it looked like the so-called Big Four — John Baird, Sam Pleming, Shane Valenti and Toby Pinwill — would also depart after a skirmish with president Peter Bromley over the club’s off-field direction.
But Ayres and general manager Barry Kidd worked diligently to cover the losses.
They didn’t find a full forward to replace Galea’s goals or a big man to ruck as well as Skipper.
But enough good players have come in to the squad to give Ayres options to match their output.
In James Magner, Port has one of the best recruits for 2014. Delisted by Melbourne after 19 games in two years, the right-footer is an outstanding VFL player and will ease the load on the likes of Valenti, Pinwill and Baird. Ditto for talented former Richmond player Dan Connors and ex-Saint Rob Eddy.
Sandringham captain Marcus Marigliani, 17-game Carlton key defender Marcus Davies and Casey Scorpions vice-captain Luke Tynan strengthen the defence and Port Fairy’s Sandy Robinson appeals as a key forward option. Ex-Zebra Chris Michaliades is another worthy recruit.
As for the ruckwork, 2011 premiership big man David Fanning has returned after a stint in the Essendon and District league and will lead a talented but inexperienced division.
Ayres appreciates Coburg’s history and wishes the Lions well — but not this Saturday.
The clubs played a practice match three weeks ago and Port lifted in the final quarter to by six goals.
“It was a very competitive effort by Coburg,’’ Ayres said.
“They’ve since beaten the Northern Blues and got to within a goal of Frankston so there’s no doubt they’re building nicely for Round 1.
“Peter (Coburg coach Peter German) will have them primed to play well. We should not or cannot take them lightly.’’
German grew up a Lions supporter and has vivid memories of a game at Port Melbourne, when a stoush between players broke out and an elderly female Borough supporter whacked a Lion with her umbrella.
“Even since then, I’ve never been able to have Port Melbourne!’’ he said with a laugh.
“Not only that, they’d be on Channel 0 every second week. No one else got a look in.’’
German said he respected what Port Melbourne had achieved under Ayres and Coburg aspired to reach the same standard.
A Development League match at 11am will raise the curtain to the senior clash at City Oval, which has been rebadged Piranha Park for the next three years after Coburg struck a sponsorship with food manufacturer Piranha.
Coburg were competitive against Frankston who I reckon are a top 8 side this year.
Port have a strong side in and I reckon the Borough will just be too experienced on the day. Toby Pin will is probably the notable omission from the Port side.
The forecast is good so hopefully this game is well supported by fans of the two standalone clubs.
I'm tipping Port by 5 goals.