Bendigo Advertiser | Rivals chase Bridgewater and Newbridge for footy and netball supremacy. Bridgewater is favourite to win its eighth-straight LVFNL premiership in 2017, but one gets the feeling this campaign won’t be as comfortable as recent seasons.
The Mean Machine deserve favouritism, but the departures of premiership stars Andy Collins, Brad Rohde and Callum Prest does make them look more vulnerable than they have in the past.
Some of the Mean Machine’s best players during the seven-straight flags are entering veteran status and you can mount an argument to say their best footy is behind them. After breaking Calivil United’s record of six-straight flags, you can also pose the question as to whether the Mean Machine’s hunger for success will be the same in 2017?
On the other side of the coin, the Mean Machine has been that far in front of its rivals in recent years that it can afford to be a three or four goal inferior side compared to 2016 and still be the best team in the competition.
Whichever way you look at it, the pack is closing in.
Calivil United and Pyramid Hill, in particular, have recruited strongly and look set to be better placed in 2017.
Mitiamo, runners-up to Bridgewater the past two seasons, have spread the load with their recruiting in a bid to close the gap on the Mean Machine. Less big-name stars, but more depth across the ground could well be a smart move by the Superoos.
On the netball court, Newbridge is favourite to defend its title, but Mitiamo, Bridgewater and Calivil United won’t be far away.
Newbridge won its first flag in 48 years in 2016 and has retained the majority of its squad.
The new-look Mean Machine might be the biggest threat to the Maroons.
New coach Meg Allen has recruited well, with Sandhurst pair Stacey Rothacker and Leah Sartori to add class and experience to the Mean Machine line-up.
In 2016, the footy and netball premiers were not hard to pick as early as June. It could be a different story in 2017.