Demons are primed

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Footy Countdown - BY DEAN LAW­SON

If Wim­mera Foot­ball League fans needed con­fir­ma­tion about the 2019 in­ten­tions of reign­ing premier Hor­sham they need only con­sider what hap­pened at a pre-sea­son tour­na­ment at Bendigo.

Hor­sham not only com­peted in a Bendigo Coun­try Foot­ball Chal­lenge, it won the tour­na­ment over­all, beat­ing Swan Hill by five points in an in­tense grand fi­nal.

The re­sult con­sol­i­dated a be­lief across the re­gion that the Demons are again the stand­out team to beat.

But Hor­sham, while ap­pear­ing sim­i­lar from the out­side, will fea­ture a range of sub­tle difference­s this sea­son.

For a start, Tim Wade has joined Deek Roberts in a joint se­nior coach­ing role, for­mer premier­ship leader Guy Smith has led a pre-sea­son fit­ness pro­gram and fans are likely to see a rolling change in per­son­nel.

The changes are likely to add a fresh di­men­sion to Hor­sham’s ap­proach this sea­son, so much so that Wade ad­mit­ted team lead­ers were still as­sess­ing game plans and styles.

“We’re still a lit­tle bit un­known on what side we will go with and how our game style is go­ing to work. But hav­ing good num­bers and a mix of youth and older guys will ap­ply pres­sure to both our re­serves as well as se­niors to play

well and step up,” he said. Wade said at least 35 play­ers had con­sis­tently been in­volved in pre-sea­son train­ing since the club hit the track in mid Jan­uary.

“We have an in­flux of 11 ju­niors com­ing out of the un­der-17s and this has been helped with six or seven guys we’ve picked up,” he said.

“Four of those young blokes played at some stage last year and the way they have been trav­el­ling they are all prob­a­bly go­ing to get a go this year.”

Wade pre­dicted the likes of Matt Wynne, Bai­ley Nel­son and Ben Hobbs were likely to lead a young-player charge.

Hor­sham re­cruits in­clude Sam Vin­cent from La­harum, Am­brose Laun­der who had ‘slipped un­der the radar’ and done well in prac­tice matches and Paul Chris­tian, who has been away play­ing in Ade­laide and Bendigo and likely to line up mid-sea­son af­ter re­cov­er­ing from shoulder surgery.

“We’ve also been im­pressed with Rhys Bar­ber who has done a full pre-sea­son and showed a lot in the ruck,” Wade said.

“And then there’s Al Mckin­non from Dim­boola who has brought sig­nif­i­cant knowl­edge and pro­fes­sion­al­ism with him to the club.

“He has been amaz­ing. He’s the whole pack­age and we’re rapt to have him on board.”

It hasn’t been all roses in the Demons’ lead-up to the sea­son. The club has lost premier­ship and league star Ryan Kemp to Wer­ribee and goal-kicking mid­fielder John Wood has shifted to Mel­bourne with work.

Heart-and-soul on-field leader Darcy Tay­lor and Riley Stacey, work­ing over­seas, are also de­par­tures.

“It’s go­ing to be a very new-look side,” Wade said.

“We’ve spent most of the pre-sea­son strength­en­ing up our ju­niors and do­ing a lot of one-on-one work with the young guys

“While there are a few older heads in there it will still be a pretty young side.”

The joint coach­ing ar­range­ment is an ob­vi­ous switch for the Demons with Roberts and the club ap­proach­ing Wade with the dual-role idea.

The move con­sol­i­dates a pow­er­ful lead­er­ship group with Rhona Con­boy the pair’s se­nior as­sis­tant, Smith pro­vid­ing di­rec­tion from the bench and fit­ness man­age­ment and cap­tain Ben Lakin, who with Con­boy and for­mer coach Brad Har­ti­gan led the way in the pre-sea­son tour­na­ment in Bendigo.

Wade said play­ers had un­der­stand­ably pulled up sore af­ter the tour­na­ment and will use in­tra-club matches to freshen up for an An­zac Day open­ing against Hor­sham Saints.

“We’ve had a pretty full-on pre-sea­son and we’re not quite ready to go, but we’re also not far off,” he said.

Dawson Cross

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