Still billed as the best state league team in the nation, the SANFL starts this Thursday night with the first weekend of competition featuring just two games.
Reigning premiers Norwood ignite the season with a clash against Sturt, while for a second successive year Glenelg take on South Adelaide on Good Friday, this time at the Bay.
Woodville West Torrens, Central District, West Adelaide and North Adelaide, along with the Crows and Port SANFL teams, will start their campaigns on the weekend of April 11. In fact, the SANFL fixture looks a lot like the failed structure adopted by the AFL in round one of 2014, which ran over a couple of weekends.
Here, InDaily’s local sport writer Peter Argent assesses each club and offers his predictions for the season.
Your team’s hopes
Norwood will start its 2015 campaign as the pre-season favourites. The Redlegs are looking for a fourth successive flag, a feat only only achieved previously by Port Adelaide (1954-59), Sturt (1966-70) and Central District (2007-2010) since the turn of the 20th century.
They have seen a lot of player movement over the off season, but the Redlegs have proven structures, started under Nathan Bassett and continued by Ben Warren last season.
A key inclusion is the return of 2012/13 premiership player Alex Georgiou who will captain the club after a stint with Melbourne. He takes over from the retired Kieran McGuinness.
Midfielder Mat Suckling returns from the Collingwood VFL side, while teenage talent Luke Partington comes across from the Port Adelaide Magpies.
South Adelaide got to the penultimate game of the 2014 season, but missed out on a Grand Final berth, after 20 minutes with poor football in the third quarter of the preliminary final.
Coach Brad Gotch believed this will be a great motivator for his squad, and if they can replace their three AFL draftees, especially ruckman Keegan Brooksby, they should be well in the mix this season.
The Panthers still have a potent midfield – Joel Cross, Nick Liddle, Brent MacLeod and Xavier Gotch as the core – and a great target in attack in Max Eddy.
They are expected to see major round participation again this year.
Under Heath Younie, the Adelaide Crows are expected to be one of the big improvers, especially with the depth of development talent he will have at his disposal.
After a brilliant finish in 2014, small forward Anthony Wilson comes across from Norwood, while Jake Lever (Calder Cannons), Mitch McGovern (Claremont), Harry Dear (Sandringham Dragons), Keenan Ramsey (Port Adelaide Magpies) and ruckman Reilly O’Brien (Calder Cannons) were picked up in the draft and are expected to play the majority of the season in the SANFL.
Out at the Ponderosa coach Roy Laird is bullish about the progression of the talent at Central District.
Tom Stevens (Echuca) and Chris Jansen (Belconnen) will be classy acquisitions, while Connor McLean, Wayne Milera and Dominic Constanzo are likely types coming from the underage program.
Woodville West Torrens fell away in the second half of last season, and now only have one senior player left from the successful era that culminated in the 2006 premiership – Luke Jarrad.
They have selected two new captains, local lad Patrick Guiffreda and delisted Crow Luke Thompson, to lead a young squad into battle.
Still just 20, Nick Hayes comes back after two years on the Brisbane Lions list, resilient defender Aseri Raikiwasa arrives from the Port Adelaide Magpies, while Queenslander Fraser Thurlow will add to the big man strength at Oval Avenue.
Across at Unley, Sturt fell out of finals contention in straight sets, and then lost key members of engine room, Richard Tambling and Ben Kane, along with a number of other retirements.
After being dropped by the Magpies for the Grand Final last year, Angus Bruggemann signed at the Double Blues to boost their big man stocks.
Mark Evans arrives from Norwood, Eagles 2011 premiership player Lee Staple comes on board after a season in the country, James Battersby returns after a season on the Crows list, while Nathan Stark and Richard O’Grady previously played at Glenelg.
Mark Mickan’s troops have recruited impressively at Richmond Oval adding tall timber and creative midfield options to West Adelaide’s squad for 2015.
Local favourite Jason Porplyzia returns from Adelaide, and Brad Helbig is back from Richmond. Tall options Ryan Willits, Corey Solly and Nick Westhoff will add to plenty of depth in this area.
Grand finalists Port Adelaide still have Steve Summerton as on-field leader, but you’d expect there will be plenty of new faces in the prison bar jumper. Their season will likely depend on the injury toll at the Power.
North Adelaide start their 2015 season with a large raft of injuries and have already lost Matt Campbell in the pre-season and are not expecting to see new recruit Derick Wanganeen before round four.
Down at Brighton Road, Glenelg have endured a tumultuous summer, needing to change coach after Nick Stevens was found guilty of assaulting his ex partner. The club’s 2014 football manager, Matthew Lokan, is now in the senior coaching role.
One of the best inside ball winning sides despite their results last year, the Bays have invested in running players Ben Nason from Central District, Aboriginal talents Lonnie Hampton (Albury), Terry Milera (St Kilda), Jarrhan Jacky (Subiaco) and Willie Rioli (NT Thunder), who will also add to the club’s strength in this area.
State under 18 title winning captain last year Jake Johansen comes across from Alberton and Tom Carter will add the much needed size to big man group, moving from West Adelaide.
Like last winter, it looks to be an ultra-competitive season.
Norwood and South should be among the top tier, while there are many teams that look capable of finals participation.
If last year was any indication, there should be a number of sides fighting for major round positions late in the regular season.
Unfortunately for Tigers supporters, Glenelg looks the prime candidate to collect the 2015 wooden spoon.
Argent’s Crystal Ball – The ladder at the end of the 2015 minor round
Woodville West Torrens
RD 1 Fixtures
2.4.15 – Norwood vs Sturt (Coopers Stadium)
3.4.15 – Glenelg vs South (Gliderol Stadium)
10.4.15 – South vs Port (Hickinbotham Oval – Noarlunga)
11.4.15 – Sturt vs Glenelg (Peter Motley Oval – Unley)
11.4.15 – North vs Adelaide (Prospect)
11.4.15 – Eagles vs West (Maughan Thiem Hyundai Oval – Woodville)
11.4.15 – Central District vs Norwood (Playford Oval – Elizabeth)
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