New GRFNL season of hope

GOLDEN Rivers Football Netball League teams that failed to reach the 2018 senior football finals will face immediate challenges to their ascendancy when they are each matched against finalists in the opening round of the 2019 season tomorrow.

There was a big divide between the finalists and the rest last season and tomorrow's round will be an early pointer to teams' hopes.

GRFNL officials will certainly be hoping for a more even competition.

All this week's matches commence at 2.30pm.

Absent this season will be Wakool, which has withdrawn from the competition due to a lack of numbers after struggling for the past two seasons.

Hay v Moulamein

After making last year's finals, Hay hosts Moulamein, the club that finished sixth in 2018, but the balance of power between the sides has shifted since.

The number of off-season departures from the Lions' den significantly outweighed that of new recruits, with second-year coach Daniel Gash set to focus on developing young players already at the club.

In stark contrast, Moulamein has gone all out on the recruiting front, including the addition of new co-coach Xavier Mertz and his brother Austin from Swan Hill.

At 195 cm, pacy and athletic Austin brings serious footy credentials and will have a positive impact in whatever onfield role he fills.

The Mertz brothers head an extensive list of ins for the Swans, with the club's list of outs far shorter.

After winning seven games last season, Moulamein's bolstered squad is in contention for a realistic tilt at playing finals.

The Swans are in with a strong chance of starting 2019 with victory away from home.

Hay supporters will be keen to see recruit Brett Rogers in action, with his coach Gash comparing Rogers' game style to that of Cyril Rioli.

Murrabit v Wandella

Although just one place out of the 2018 top four, Murrabit has significant ground to make up this season, having fallen three wins short of fourth-placed Hay.

A big test arrives straight away for the Blues with last year's beaten preliminary finalist Wandella coming to town.

Murrabit coach Bryden Morison has done well by retaining most players from last season, whilst supplementing his list with some productive recruiting.

Wandella's new coach Jason Ianucci is confident the Bombers will be fitter and faster this year, having designed the club's recruiting strategy and training approach to achieve those ends.

With both sides focused on delivering more efficient ball movement this season, this should be an entertaining affair.

Macorna v Nullawil

Macorna confronts defending premier Nullawil first up, with the Tigers looking to muster a more competitive showing than they were able to produce against the Maroons last season.

Nullawil won the sides' 2018 encounters by 178 points and 114 points.

Whilst restricted financially in terms of chasing big name recruits, Macorna has significantly boosted its stocks of young talent.

That was accomplished largely with an influx of players from the Cohuna Kangas.

Tigers' coach Wayne Wishart confirmed the transfers for that group of players have all gone through and he plans for them to take the field this week.

One of those arrivals to keep an eye on is Kansas Varker who is expected to combine centre half forward and midfield duties. 

Another is Kaleb O'Flaherty, with Wishart expecting to use him in the ruck and at centre half back.

Nullawil suffered only a few off-season departures, which it appears well equipped to cover, and is right in the mix to add another premiership cup this year.

Anticipate a substantial win for the Maroons to start proceedings.

Ultima v Quambatook

Ultima hasn't missed a grand final since 2012, but will be hungry for success after finishing runner-up in each of the last three seasons.

The Kangaroos open their season at home, hosting Quambatook, with the Saints looking to improve on a seventh-placed finish in 2018.

This match presents a chance to observe Ultima's new structures at stoppages and kick outs.

Brodie Bennett has assumed the Kangaroos' coaching position and is planning some tweaks to the team's approach.

New Saints' coach Graeme Davis is intent on instilling unity into his side and getting his players to adhere to structures.

He will try to get better results out of a similar playing group to last year's, believing his players have the talent to play finals football, but need to build their self-belief.

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