Football and netball returns to East Gippsland this weekend.
After 12 months in the wilderness due to COVID-19, it’s back with action getting underway in the Omeo District Football Netball League on Saturday afternoon as well as Bairnsdale kicking off its Gippsland League campaign with a road trip to Warragul.
The Redlegs, led by coach Darren Martin, showed vast improvement in 2019 and despite only minimal changes to the playing list, including the loss of Shaun Wyatt, Ryan Halford, Tomm Bryan, Russell Cowan and Keenan Hynes, they are hopeful of making a finals surge in 2021.
The onus will be on the likes of big man, Ethan East, classy small forward, Brayden McCarrey, and the versatile Ricky Tatnell, to take Bairnsdale to the next level.
Corey Timms will return from a long-term knee injury and is expected to continue learning a midfield role, while Simon Deery will slot straight back into a key defensive post.
Martin is hopeful that with a good run of injuries Bairnsdale has the depth to take the challenge up to the best opposition.
“In the three years I’ve been involved we’ve had some horrific luck with injuries, so hopefully with the good citizens we have it’s our turn for a bit of luck. If that’s the case, and I know we’ll have a pretty strong reserves side, we’ll field two relatively strong teams,” he said.
“I think we can compete with any team at either end of the ground, our challenge will be in the midfield and covering the losses we’ve had over the past two years, whether or not we can win enough of the football.
“Jesse Glassborrow has had a great pre- season, he missed a lot of footy in 2019 due to concussion and ankle injury, but he’s clearly been our best midfielder in two practice matches against quality opposition in Sale and Maffra.
“Corey Timms, Matt Corbett, Liam Giove, Ben McKinnon, these guys will step up and learn the midfield craft. They are all ball hunters, but we want to be one in while others spread, not all in on the ball. It will take time.
“Link Robinson will spend time in there. I’m excited to see him in there, he’s a very big, strong kid.”
Martin said despite the year off, he has had no trouble motivating his players, aside from the snap lockdown in February.
“Our numbers have been really good and those guys who were stepping up in 2019 they are all naturally a little bit stronger, fitter and more mature having moved into the workforce,” he said.
“It’ll be exciting to see how they develop.”
The Redlegs will miss Alex McLaren, Harry Cook and Andrew Nelson through injury this week and all three are in line for senior spots when available.
In the Omeo District League, the season kicks off with a 2019 grand final replay between Bruthen and Omeo Benambra, Swan Reach hosts Lindenow South, while Swifts Creek battles Buchan.
Jesse Glassborrow has been identified as key to Bairnsdale’s midfield redevelopment in its bid for a surge up the Gippsland League ladder in 2021. K534-108 (2021)