We take a look at the opening round of the Allied Pickfords Cup.
Western Magpies coach Craig St John has issued an ominous warning ahead of his side’s opening clash with Mayne Tigers tomorrow.
Last year’s premiers have lost a swag of players, including 2012 best and fairest Ben Heffernan-Roper, but St John believes the magpies are just as good as ever.
“Our team will be similar strength, if not better, than last year,” he said.
“We think we’ll strengthen in the latter half of the season, but overall we’re in fairly good stead.”
St John said there would be no premiership hangover for the Magpies when they meet the Tigers in a bid to fulfil their aim of a perfect home record this season.
“Our training to date has not reflected that,” St John said.
“If anything they’ve been a little bit more upbeat and positive.”
Full-forward, Kire Talevski, will be one of a number of Magpies debutants on Saturday, which have made the defending premiers more of an unknown this season.
It will be a big day for the club, with the unfurling of their 2012 flag and a function to pay tribute to retired captain, Chris Mihalopolous, but St John said it will be “business as usual” for the side.
His opposite coach, Mitch Ferguson, said his side was just excited to finally play a competitive game of footy.
“I think we’re all sick of pre-season and ready to go,” Ferguson said.
The Tigers will unleash former Ovens and Murray footballer, Shaun Daly, in the match and the former Albury Tigers star will be a major boost for Mayne this season.
Josh Duffy, Nick Aldridge and Liam Bourke will also be injected into the Tigers side for the first time, each adding something different to the team.
“It’s a diverse group,” Ferguson said.
“We’ve got nice size in Shaun and Josh Duffy, Nick’s got a lot of experience and Liam Bourke’s quick as lightning.”
Ferguson said he would not be taking the Magpies lightly, despite the premiers’ new-look line up.
“They’re a sensational team, they were streets ahead of everyone last year,” he said.
“It’s a big challenge to get over the top of someone like the Magpies.
“It’s a big hurdle but we’ll give it a real crack.”
Western Magpies vs. Mayne kicks off at 2:15pm at Chelmer.
Around the grounds: Allied Pickfords Round 1:
There are plenty of other blockbusters in the Allied Pickfords Cup this weekend.
Surfers Paradise and Palm Beach Currumbin play a local derby on Saturday at Surfers.
The Lions will be boosted by the inclusion of F Ben Heffernan-Roper and Matt Dillon, from the Wester Magpies.
Last year’s grand finalists will not have it all their own way, though, with the Demons looking to consolidate on a strong finish to 2012.
Surfers Paradise have had few additions to their side for the opening match, but the familiarity of their team, one that won six straight games to finish 2012, cannot be discounted.
In another Coast derby, 2012 cellar-dwellers, Burleigh and Coolangatta fight it out at Bill Godfrey Oval.
The Blues have an almost completely new side playing for them this season, with only a handful of their players having donned the navy guernseys before.
Coolangatta young gun Zac Brain has been earmarked for a big year and will get his first chance to step up for the Blues against the Bombers.
Last year’s wooden spooners will be looking for big games from Albury defender, Jay Koehler, and a number of other interstate recruits.
Burleigh has lost only one player in the off-season and will be looking to improve on their wooden spoon finish last year.
University of Queensland will make their division one debut against Maroochydore tomorrow at home.
The Red Lions will be major underdogs in their first match of the top division, but all the talk from their camp this pre-season has been on improvement rather than results.
Only eight players from UQ’s 2012 Division Two grand final side will be lining up for the Red Lions on Saturday, with former captain, Matthew Stewart, in the coaches’ box.
2012 under-18 leading goal kicker, Hayden Smoothy, will make his debut for the Roos’ seniors in the match, alongside former Goulburn Valley vice-captain, Michael Roberts.
Sandgate and Springwood will fight it out at Lemke Rd tomorrow, in a highly-anticipated clash.
The Hawks are a relatively young side this season, while the Pumas have been busy in the off-season, picking up big-name recruits such as Albert Proud , Aaron Richardson and Rhan Hooper.
Rounding off the opening round action is Noosa and Wilston Grange.
Both of these teams have been around the mark in recent years and the clash will be a hard-fought battle.
The Tigers are looking towards their youth this season, rather than recruiting players and their match with the Gorillas will be an opportunity to see if their youngsters can step up.
The Gorillas will be hoping to make the next step in 2013, starting with a win over the Tigers.
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