Premier B open for business

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David Chalmers – Premier B Scribe

Welcome to another season of Premier B footy for 2017. Last season we were joined by the Beaumaris Sharks from William Buck Premier and they achieved immediate redemption, going through as clearly the best side and defeating St Bedes/Mentone by five goals in the Grand Final. The Tigers produced another high quality season and also take the step up to Premier after just missing out in 2015.

At the other end of the ladder, Hampton Rovers and Old Haileybury joined Premier C after managing just four wins each for the season. We are joined by St Bernard’s (five wins) and Old Carey (one win) from Premier section, while Mazenod and Peninsula are up from Premier C.

Ajax (7th, 7-11) were the talk of the VAFA in the off-season, recruiting AFL and SANFL legend Mark ‘Choco’ Williams as their senior coach for 2017. The Jackas will be contesting their sixth straight season in Premier B. After finishing 5th for three years in a row and winning three in a row early on in 2016, they couldn’t produce any consistency during the season, finishing toward the lower end of the ladder. The Jackas will be led on the field by captain Nick Marks.

Despite losing the first four games in 2016, Fitzroy (5th, 10-7-1) recovered to become one of the form teams in Premier B. They ended up missing finals action by half a game, when results did not go their way in Round 18. Co-captains Rory Angiolella and Daniel Bisetto led by example, finishing equal third in the GT Moore medal count. Nick Mitchell will be the Roys sole senior coach in 2017 after sharing the role with Michael Pickering in 2016. The Roys are entering their fifth season in Premier B, and will be looking to progress to finals action in 2017.

Mazenod (2nd in Premier C, 14-3-1) rejoins Premier B after one season in C section. Led by new coach Ben Phibbs, the Nodders won their first 11 games and ended up second behind Caulfield, before belting the Fields in the semi-final and earning automatic promotion back to Premier B. The club will be led once again by captain Rob Mann and assisted by Stuart Inglis and Steve Welsford, who also finished top three in the club’s best and fairest. Coach Ben Phibbs said “We are looking to keep the momentum going from a successful 2016. Having kept the premiership twenty-two together, we are looking forward to the challenge of the higher grade. We do not go in with trepidation or fear, rather a sense of excitement to see how we respond to the challenge of playing strong VAFA clubs.

Monash Blues (4th, 11-7) will be looking to build on an impressive debut in Premier B in 2016, which saw them make the finals despite losing four of their first six games. After losing coach Paul Groves to the AFLW, the Blues gained Mark Passador who took Old Scotch to the Premier B preliminary final in 2016. The club will also be led by new co-captains, Maddison Hardiman and Andrew Young. Monash games record holder Andrew Hickey has retired, but will be back at the club as an assistant coach.

Old Brighton (6th, 9-9) returns as part of the Premier B furniture after finishing a couple of games outside finals action in 2016. Seven straight losses in the middle stages were followed by seven wins in the last eight games. Greg Hutchison will be returning as senior coach. According to Tonners scribe Andrew Mullet: “the squad is slightly deeper than last year with Ben Jarick, Ollie Cavallaro and Luke Forato returning from overseas, and Jack Toouli (Brighton Grammar via Hampton Rovers) and Paddy Liston, both new players, impressing on the track. Tom Fisher and Harry Hill had terrific seasons and will again be key players. Dylan Verney, Ben Austen, Andrew and Michael Dewar and Stuart Hooy head a band of experienced players who will balance out a group expected to have a solid season.

Old Carey (10th in Premier, 1-17) returns to Premier B after a couple of seasons up in the top flight. They will once again be led by co-coaches Paul O’Connell and Michael Tarrant, while Cameron Jones remains captain. A bevy of new recruits join the Panthers; including, former Essendon midfielder Jason Ashby, former Gold Coast Suns captain Marc Lock, Jordan Ceppi, Sam Crocker and George Curnow.

Old Scotch (3rd, 11-7) had a solid first season in Premier B after being relegated at the end of 2015. The Cardinals won seven of their first nine games and spent the whole season in the top four, before being beaten in the preliminary final by Beaumaris. Dale Bower will replace Mark Passador as senior coach in 2017, while Jack Bull retains the captaincy and Gene Van Den Broek remains vice-captain. “We are looking to develop the young players at the club and build a footy program that is sustainable and will help us realise our long term goals, we are all looking forward to the 2017 season.

Parkdale Vultures (8th, 7-11) will saddle up for their third straight Premier B campaign with new coach Jason Bristow. They were unable to maintain any sort of consistency during 2016, but did have leader Charlie Dillon win the GT Moore medal. Matt Boland should return after injury his knee in Round 1 last year after kicking five goals to the start of the second term.

Peninsula (3rd in Premier C, 12-6) have earned themselves a spot in Premier B after upsetting top side Caulfield in the 2016 preliminary final. The Pirates were no match for Mazenod in the Big One, but now can test themselves in a higher grade. It’s the first time the Pirates have ever entered Premier B and Stu Grigg will lead them again in 2017.

St Bernard’s (9th in Premier, 5-13) president Patrick Crabb is looking forward to seeing his young players embrace the challenge of Premier B footy after being relegated at the end of 2016. “The club has seen it all in the last two years, an A grade flag followed by relegation. As is the case with many clubs, player turnover continues to rise, as it has again this preseason. Of the 41 players who played senior football in the 2015 premiership, only 20 remain on our list. This of course gives tremendous opportunity for our young emerging players. This year our expectation is that this emerging group of youngsters, being guided by a core of experienced senior leaders, will see the club perform very strongly in B Grade.”