CENTRAL DISTRICT 2013 POCKET PREVIEW
By Zac Milbank SANFL
LAST YEAR – Position: 4th. Minor Round: won 13, lost 7.
In: Jackson Potter (Sydney), Jack Osborn (Crows list), Sam Milne (Albury), Dylan Hewett (Broughton-Mundoora), Tim Meulendyks (Hamilton), Seb Guilhaus (Kaniva/Woodville-West Torrens).
Out: Chris Gowans, James Gowans (retired), Ed Sansbury (Toowoomba - home town of wife), Matthew Westhoff, Chad O’Sullivan (North Adelaide), Damian Hynes (Amateurs), Jack Hannath (Fremantle), Troy Menzel (Carlton), Andrew Hayes (Port Adelaide Magpies), James Lawton (delisted), Jackson O’Brien (Angaston).
Roy Laird – The seven-time premiership mentor faces his most challenging period as a coach after losing a significant amount of experience from his playing group during summer. Rather than being able to top up his list with the injection of a handful of new players, Laird will be guiding a vastly different side in 2013 which will include several of the club’s promising youngsters. It will also be intriguing to see how much he changes his game-plan to match the tactics employed by competition pacesetters Norwood and West Adelaide.
Awarded SANFL Life Membership after joining the 200-club last year, Thomas has enjoyed a strong pre-season with the Bulldogs. Entering his seventh season as Central captain, the former Essendon defender and Son of former Centrals player Jamie leads from the front with his fearless attack on the football. Thomas will need to show more leadership than ever this season following the retirements of Chris and James Gowans and the departure of experienced trio Ed Sansbury, Andrew Hayes and Chad O’Sullivan.
Laird says: ‘’He’s in a lot better physical condition than he was 12 months ago and he’s an outstanding pre-season. He’s very motivated to perform at the level he expects of himself, which he didn’t quite meet last year.
‘’It (leadership) will be extremely important not only for him but all those mid-tier come senior players around him. They need to lead by example and understand that at the same time as producing their own playing performance, they will need to assist the young crop of players we’ve got coming through.
‘’I think we’ll still see him through the midfield and down back.’’
ON THE RISE
Laird says: ‘’He’s now getting to the stage where he’s played 20 to 30 games so his confidence level is growing at league level. He’s ultra-competitive and has a really good feel for the game. He will play a role for us as a small defender come wingman.
‘’He’s a really lean, fit, 5ft 10In type who we are expecting to improve this season.’’
Laird says: ‘’Unfortunately, he’s got a hamstring injury and we don’t expect him to play for a number of weeks. But once he’s fit we expect him to play on the ball. He’s a booming left-footer who has a hard approach at the footy and with his tackling.
‘’I’ve already discussed with him some of the elements he learned while he was at Sydney, so we’ve certainly used him in a positive way.’’
Laird says: ‘’We’re certainly not going to reflect on last year at all because our group has changed dramatically. Any results from days gone by have no relevance on this current group. That’s why it’s been such an exciting change for us because we have opted to change elements of our game-plan. So it’s been good to effectively have a new breed of player who has embraced that (new game-plan) during pre-season, now we’ve just to carry it out during games.
‘’The speed of leg and overall intensity (will be important). If you’re an intense footy side and making good decisions then I think any lack of leg speed you have is overcome a little bit through those areas. But in saying that, leg speed is vital to every team and we think we’ve been able to add some for ourselves in key areas so we will be a bit better in that area.
‘’We’ve certainly had to look at ways of players interacting better. I think society in general doesn’t have as much face-to-face interaction anymore so we’ve held a camp and done some work with individuals highlighting the need for that. We’ve highlighted the need for good communication on the ground. Our last two years have been a bit deflating in some ways so it’s good to have some new players to work with, which are motivated and enthusiastic. So I’m looking forward to seeing up become a challenger again.
‘’We don’t know and we’ll find out as the season progresses but clearly the twins (James and Chris Gowans) will be missed. Their popularity amongst the group was huge, they brought an atmosphere with them which was enjoyable, they love life, they love playing sport and they were real competitors. We hope now that we can see some players, who have been in and around James and Chris, take a bit from them in a competitive sense. If we can get players with the same spirit they played their footy with then they will be good players even before taking into account what natural talent they’ve got.’’
Centrals League season kicks off on Thursday Night 28th March (Easter) against Grand Finalists West Adelaide at City Mazda Stadium Richmond at 7:10pm