Let’s preview the Prem B competition, shall we…

Posted on - Latest News, Premier B Men's, Featured

Saturdays will be all the better for the return of amateur football, as the VAFA senior men’s and women’s competitions kick into gear this weekend.

In the Premier B Men’s competition, the eye is drawn to a clash rematch between promoted pair Old Camberwell and Old Ivanhoe, booked to re-acquaint themselves at Chelsworth Park after last year’s Premier C Grand Final.

Old Ivanhoe senior coach Jarrod Gieschen will unveil a fabulous addition in Toby McLean; a boom recruit for the club. A heart-and-soul half-forward, McLean played 102 AFL games for the Western Bulldogs, where he was a prominent feature in the club’s drought-breaking 2016 premiership. “He’s been fantastic and brought some fresh ideas and just shown the boys what it’s like to train at that higher level” said Gieschen on Wednesday night.

Gieschen says his side is primed for the move up to Premier B, having retained most of the list. As far as opening games go, a clash with Old Camberwell, who Old Ivanhoe defeated by 42 points in the 2023 Premier C Grand Final, is the perfect litmus test. “They were the dominant team last year, we probably found form at the right time,” said Gieschen. “They’ve gone from Division 1 to Premier C to Premier B, and you don’t do that three years in a row unless you’ve got some high-quality players.”

There’s another finals replay in Round 1 for Prem B for De La Salle and Beaumaris; their last meeting ended in five-point Sharks win in the 2023 Premier B semifinal. They’ll take to Waverley Oval this weekend, reigniting a rivalry between the two clubs that developed nicely last year.

“We’re looking forward to getting stuck back into a rivalry which we’ve had with Beaumaris recently,” said De La Salle senior coach Nick Hyland on Wednesday afternoon. “We played them three times last year, including the semifinal, and each result was decided by ten points or under. We’ve had some good battles, no doubt it’ll be the same this week.”

It’s been a rewarding off-season for De La Salle, with school footy skipper Luke Lloyd selected by Brisbane at pick #42 in November’s AFL National Draft, partly thanks to a 19-goal performance for the school team last May. The club were ecstatic for Lloyd and he’s a great player.

Former St Kilda midfielder Leo Connolly signed with De La Salle following his delisting last year but expect him to feature more prominently for the Casey Demons in the VFL.

“Having players picking his brain is really valuable for our young group. It’s that youthful brigade, Hyland forecasts, that will see De La advance in season 2024. Our progression will be largely based on the development of those younger guys that have already had senior experience over the last 12 to 24 months,” he said.

For Beaumaris, it’s a look at a fresher side, one senior coach Josh Bourke is embracing. “It’s been a real transition for us – we’ve had a few outs and a few move on to different opportunities”. Bourke’s list of exciting talent includes the likes of Tom O’Rourke, Charlie Wilson and Spencer McLennan – home-grown talented youngsters who have impressed on the track and are looking to become consistent senior footballers – while Jai Florent, the brother of Sydney’s Ollie, is one of four Beaumaris recruits to have transferred from Bonbeach.

Senior assistant Stephen Milne is one of many “quality coaches” around the football club, Bourke lauding Beaumaris for its investment and focus on establishing a strong coaching group at all levels.

Bourke shed light on Milne’s increased role with the Sharks’ training regime over the pre-season. “This pre-season, Milney’s taken a bit more of a role with the whole group, he’s had a bit more of an overall influence and some more taking (control) of training,” Bourke said.

Old Haileybury, having dropped down to Premier B this season following a six-win 2023 season in William Buck Premier football, are expected by most to be right in the mix for the premiership and will take on Old Trinity to start its season.

Haileybury’s forwards will be under the tutelage of Hawthorn star Luke Bruest this year, the three-time premiership player offering his services as assistant coach when able. Trinity’s squad has been bolstered by the additions of ex-AFL listed pair Matthew Goodyear and Hugh Beasley, while Sam Mason and Hugo McGlashan have returned from VFL duties at Coburg to pull on the green and gold.

St Bedes/Mentone Tigers, now under the tutelage of new coach Brad Berry, will host the relegated Caulfield Grammarians at Brindisi St Oval, hoping to improve on an eleven-win 2023 campaign that saw SBMT finish sixth on the Premier B ladder – percentage out of fourth spot and a finals berth.

Expect Berry, a premiership player for the club he now coaches, to favour an approach focused heavily on club culture and player development. “There might be some hard yards to do,” Berry told the Herald Sun in November, “but if we can paint a clear picture of the end of the tunnel, we will go a long way to creating a culture of people wanting to be there.”

Finally, Old Geelong will look to further affirm its place in Premier B this season, beginning with a visit to Fearon Reserve and Williamstown CYMS. Old Geelong won both its outings against the CY’s last season, but like St Bede’s Mentone and Beaumaris, missed out on finals football by percentage alone. Williamstown, fresh off celebrating club stalwart Matthew Carland’s 200th game for the club last weekend, finished seventh on the Premier B ladder last season.