AFL season starts with blockbuster
By GREGOR MACTAGGARTmactaggartg@gladstoneobserver.com.au
A BLOCKBUSTER grand final replay between the defending premiers Gladstone Mudcrabs and the BITS Saints ushers in the 2005 Trend Interiors/Carpet Court AFL Capricornia season at Clinton Park tomorrow.
It has been a summer of change for the Mudcrabs who have lost 10 players from their premiership line-up and are set for a new era under coach Jason Chirgwin.
Even so, the Mudcrabs are set to mount a premiership defence with a mix of new recruits, young guns and past heroes.
The likes of Chirgwin, Adrian Murphy, Deek Kanther, Greg McCallum, Damon Alchin, Mark Gordon and Andrew Travers still ensure the Mudcrabs will not be far from the long-awaited finals in September.
It has been a different summer down the Benaraby Road at Boyne/Tannum where the BITS are not coming into the season as defending premiers for the first time since 2000.
New coach Rod Spice is a longtime BITS clubman and will be keen to restore the Saints to the top of the Capricornia League mountain.
Like the Mudcrabs, BITS have gone through a summer of change with a number of crucial departures.
Scott Lithgow, Jason Boseun and Matthew Olsson will all be missed, but Spice is looking for the returning Danny Anderson and WA recruit Ben Maher to cover their absence.
Spice is hopeful the Saints players between the ages of 18-22 can also step up and with Darren Boase, Adam Dickenson and the consistent Damon Stebbings still in the mix are always tough to beat.
So how about those four clubs based north of Gladstone? The big question being asked is can the Rocky clubs take the crown back up the Bruce Highway?
Brothers shape as the biggest challengers having narrowly missed out on the grand final last year. The Roos have strengthened their team in the off-season with the return of Scott Smithwick and Hayden Bennett.
With Clinton Ennis the most dangerous full-forward in the league, Brothers have a serious chance at the premiership.
Glenmore are going through a rebuilding phase under coach Greg Bowler, but can always be counted on to provide at least a genuine contest.
Also keep an eye out for the new and improved Panthers this year under coach John Timms who will be pulling the boots on again.
Meanwhile, Yeppoon have had a tough summer and the Swans are just hoping to put two teams on the park in the early part of the season.
Action starts tomorrow, with the first bounce at Clinton Park at 2.30pm.