AFL Preseason for 2023

By Dale Tonkin

This year is shaping up to be an exciting one for local football in the Hill.

It’s very rare to see four new coaches start the season, but that’s exactly what we have as we look into 2023.

Each of the newcomers have different qualities and experience, with some already having coached at senior level here and returning to their previous clubs, while others are having their first opportunity at senior level. I wish all four the best, as I know firsthand how difficult it can be.

Three clubs chose to start a mini pre-season before Christmas.

South have opted for a different approach with a nine week program ahead of them starting in February and running all the way up to round one which is a pretty smart way of doing things.

You might argue they could run out of legs, running into the pointy end of the season, but I believe they will maintain their strength and fitness. Craig Thomas and his coaching staff are too smart to allow them to taper off.

I reckon they will maintain a high quality standard.

Flag favourite

This season is very difficult to predict a flag favourite as each club is in a period of change, however the Lightning Cup held on April 1 will give each club the opportunity to either play to win or use this Round Robin fixture as a stepping stone towards round one and to reward opportunity.

Those that have worked hard during the pre-season and have earned the opportunity regardless of talent – remember ability equals durability – will be able to showcase their talent in front of both spectators and sponsors. Each club may find that diamond in the rough they have been looking for.

At this stage I believe West are the front runners as they really haven’t lost anyone and they have recruited extremely well with 10 new Robins in their nest.

Let’s all sit back and see if their game style has changed. I believe if West can control the football for longer periods of time they will be a force and we could see them when it really matters.

North have done some in-house recruiting of their own with quite a few ex-players returning to the kennel, along with a few out of towners. North will be highly competitive in each game this year and may just sneak one.

South have opted to develop their juniors and have chosen to rejuvenate their senior list. Coach Craig Thomas has not recruited this year, but rather has chosen to focus on the kids and develop the club, which is the right way to go in my opinion.

Regardless of results but they will be there again when it matters.

Central have everything in front of them as they have lost very valuable experienced players and are yet to recruit anyone at this stage. It may be a tough year for the Maggies however they just might have enough left from last year’s season to worry a few teams and swoop on their prey.

Here are the clubs’ profiles:

Coach – Nathan Pearce
Captain – to be announced
Main focus of pre-season – recruiting, fitness and identifying depth
Areas of improvement – fitness, ball movement, different game style
Departures – none at this stage
Recruits – approximately 10 at this stage
Goals for this year’s pre-season – improvement, win Lightning Premiership and in-season Premiership

Coach – Craig Thomas
Captain – Marc Purcell
Main focus of pre-season – ball control and fitness
Areas of improvement – developing juniors, re-energising seniors
Departures – Mitch Henderson, Heath Caldwell, Rourke Turner
Recruits – none at this stage, focus is on the juniors
Goals for this year’s pre-season – developing juniors, to play a more exciting brand of football, to win the Premiership, evenness through out

Coach – Mark Pitt
Captains – Matt Garrick and Kennan Ellis, Vice Captain Quinten Bevan
Main focus of pre-season – making change, new team rules, complete player buy-in, punishing opposition on turnover, reinforcing club culture
Areas of improvement – reinforcing club culture, buying into ‘our team’ philosophy, which is fatigue = cowards, plus effort and hard work
Departures – Matt Walton, Jake Borlace, Matt Dempster, Ash Wilson
Recruits – to be announced
Goals for this year’s pre-season – effort, developing leadership, complete player buy-in

Coach – Sheldon Hall
Captain – to be announced
Main focus of pre-season – adapting to new structural changes, become more attacking
Areas of improvement – reward for effort, finishing in front of goal
Departures – Jory, Beasley, Moran, Mclean, Shipway, Devoy, Dewar
Recruits – none at this stage
Goals for this year’s pre-season – don’t fall away, don’t go back to old habits.

Next time I’ll be taking a closer look at each coach’s profile and what we can expect from them.


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