A new-look Stawell outfit will be out to show their Wimmera Football League competitors they are the real deal this season.
With a new president, a new coach and a new group of players, the Warriors are hoping 2018 will be their season to end an 18-year senior premiership drought.
The club brought in experienced coach Colin Macaffer to lead the senior side in 2018 to oversee a number of changes to the group.
2018 will be Macaffer’s first taste of Wimmera league football having coached in various parts of the state, including in the TAC Cup competition.
Macaffer said he hopes his side will be able to appreciate the value of respect under his charge.
“It is about getting the respect of the club,” he said.
“Each player should respect each other and the opposition – respect where we are, who we are playing and how we play our footy.”
As well as introducing a new coach, Stawell welcomes a cast of new players to bolster their playing stocks.
Navarre’s leading goalkicker Cody Driscoll made his move to the Wimmera League while Melbourne-based John McIntyre will look to bring a spark to the Warriors midfield having experienced TAC Cup football in his junior days.
Stawell’s biggest recruit of the off season however has been that of former Collingwood and Fremantle player Jack Anthony.
Anthony and his new coach go back many years, with the former Magpie having roomed with Macaffer’s son Brent when they were both playing at Collingwood.
“We are thrilled to have a guy with great experience, knowledge and work ethic,” Macaffer said after confirming the signing in December.
The Warriors will also look to develop their young talent in 2018, with a number of up and coming players putting their hand up for selection in the senior side.
“There are young fellas in Salmi and Paul Summers – they look like potential solid and senior players at the moment,” Macaffer said.
“We are looking forward to see how they go when playing for points.”
The younger players will be looking to fill holes left by departing Warriors including former coach Tom Eckel, who will try his hand for Glenelg in the South Australian National Football League this year.
The 2018 season starts early for Stawell, facing traditional rivals Ararat in a blockbuster Good Friday match.
With the Rats recruiting former St Kilda star Leigh Montagna for the game, Macaffer said he expects a great contest to start the season.
“We are obviously looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a good start to our Easter,” he said.
“We have done a lot of training and gotten our fitness right – in an old footy cliche we are just looking forward to the first round and getting into it.
“He (Montagna) is coming back from the AFL so we have to pay him the utmost respect.”
Stawell will be hoping to make a strong start and improve on their 2017 performance of fifth place, significantly further off the mark than many in the league predicted prior to the season.
Macaffer said he believes his side has what it takes to improve this season.
“It is certainly a different lineup than what we had last year so it will be interesting to see how we are all gelling together,” he said.
“If we can gel as a side I think we can go deep into the finals and that is what we are aiming at.”
The Warriors kick their season off against Ararat at Alexandra Oval on Good Friday.
Q and A with Colin Macaffer
What young plays should we keep an eye out for this season?
There are young fellas like young (Jacob) Salmi and Paul Summers who look like potential solid senior players at the moment. It is only pre-season and we have only played one practice match so we are looking forward to seeing how they go playing for points.
Do you have any goals of what you think this team can achieve in 2018?
If we can gel as a side I think we can go deep into the finals and that is what we are aiming at. We want to come off at the end of the season knowing we have done our best. It is about getting the respect of the club. Each player should respect each other and the opposition – respect where we are, who we are playing and how we play our footy.
Do you think much will be different from last year?
It is a good queston but a bit difficult for me to answer not really being at involved at the club prior to now. It is certainly a different lineup than what we had last year so it will be interesting to see how we are all gelling together. Any issues that are discovered on Friday (against Ararat) during the game for points, we have a four to five week break to fix it.