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VFL season preview

Cristian Filippo  April 5, 2017 12:17 PM

VFL Highlights | Werribee Watch the highlights from Carlton listed players in the Northern Blues' final pre-season match against Werribee.

This Saturday, the Northern Blues will get the 2017 VFL home-and-away year underway in the season opener against Port Melbourne at North Port Oval.

It’s been a big off-season for the club, with improvement the main item on the agenda heading into Josh Fraser’s second season as coach.

Northern mirrored its AFL affiliates over the summer, rejuvenating its list with promising youth to set the club up for an exciting year on the field.

With the new season imminently upon us, get up-to-speed with all you need to know from Preston City Oval. 

THREE’S A CHARM

Northern made a raft of signings to improve its list over the off-season, none more so than the acquisitions of Alex Browne, Cameron O’Shea and Luke Russell — three former AFL players.

Browne signed with the Blues over a year ago, but after sitting out 2016 through suspension, he’s raring to don the Northern jumper and resume his footballing career.

After 80 games for Port Adelaide, O’Shea arrived at the Blues in late December, providing a vast amount of big-game experience and slotting in down back for the departed Kieran McGuinness. 

AFL 2016 Rd 13 - Fremantle v Port Adelaide
Former Port Adelaide player Cameron O'Shea is set to boost the Northern Blues in 2017. (Photo: AFL Media)

Boasting a similar amount of experience, classy midfielder Luke Russell comes to the club from the Gold Coast Suns, where he had an existing relationship with Josh Fraser. 

All three have been rewarded with leadership positions ahead of the 2017 seasons. 

SOMETHING OLD

Speaking of leadership, the Northern Blues underwent wholesome change 12 months ago, with a new captain and coach heading into last season. This year, however, it’s more of the same. 

Josh Fraser and Tom Wilson respectively reprise the roles of coach and captain for the second straight year, and will continue to grow in the positions which they made their own in 2016.

Player retention was a key aspect for the Blues over the off-season, identifying a need for a stable core of players at the football club alongside its new influx of recruits.

After impressive 2016 campaigns, the likes of Kye Declase, Tim Jones, Sam Russell and Dyson Stevens all return, as do co-vice captains Glenn Strachan and Zach Ballard.

SOMETHING NEW

Along with recruiting from the AFL, VFL, country and metropolitan leagues, the Blues have turned to the TAC Cup for a number of highly talented youngsters to replenish the list. 

Affiliated with the Northern Knights, the signings of Jake Bradley (son of Craig) and highly-rated 2016 captain Mason Blakey raises the Blues’ tally to 10 players from the TAC Cup club. 

Additionally, Northern has signed a number of up-and-coming footballers who have shown cause for optimism over the pre-season. 

Sam Fowler (Dandenong Stingrays), Kane Keppel, Marcus Stavrou (both Eastern Ranges) and Michael Romero (Calder Cannons) are all likely to show their class as 23rd man or otherwise in 2017. 

FROM THE COACH

“One of the real strengths will just be building on our culture and our systems. We’re 12 months advanced in our program and we’d like to think we’re in better shape and have a better understanding of the way we want to play. I also think there’s a fire in the belly of our returning players, because right up until the last couple of rounds last year we were still a chance to play finals and we were disappointed with some of our results at the end of the year. That’s been a motivating factor to continue to grow.” - Josh Fraser speaking to vfl.com.au.

FraserApr5Pic.jpg
Northern Blues coach Josh Fraser is set to enter his second season at the helm. (Photo: Tim Murdoch)

PRE-SEASON POSITIVES

Players from both AFL and VFL lists have combined well over the practice matches, which has seen Northern win three of their four pre-season hitouts.

While allowing new teammates to gel, a number of names have put their hands up and are ready to hit the ground running at North Port Oval this Saturday.

From a Carlton perspective, key forwards Kristian Jaksch and Harry McKay have continued with their solid finishes to 2016 and have consistently hit the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, first-draftees such as Zac Fisher and Tom Williamson have shown their undoubted potential along with fellow first-year Blues Patrick Kerr and Cameron Polson.

FisherApr5PreviewPic.jpg
First-year Carlton draftee Zac Fisher will be one to watch in 2017. (Photo: Tim Murdoch)

Andrew Gallucci and Ciaran Sheehan have both made their returns from lengthy injury layoffs and performed with aplomb, showing no ill effects of previous setbacks as they look to mount their case for senior selection.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Northern Blues 10. 13. (73) defeated Sandringham 8. 14. (62) —  March 4, Linen House Centre
Match report
Goals: Jaksch 4, Lebois 2, Barrett, Milham, Thorpe, Wilson 

Northern Blues 11. 3. (69) defeated Box Hill 9. 11. (65) — March 10, Ikon Park
Match report
Goals: Jaksch 3, L. Jones 2, Barrett, Fisher, Kerr, McKay, O’Shea, L. Russell

Northern Blues 10. 12. (72) defeated by Richmond 14. 10. (94)
Match report
Goals: McKay 4, Wilson 2, Graham, Jaksch, Kerr, Williamson

Northern Blues 13. 10. (88) defeated Werribee 9. 11. (65)”
Match report
Goals: Gallucci 3, Palmer 3, Jaksch 2, Boekhorst, L. Jones, Kerridge, Korcheck, McKay

LIST CHANGES

Ins: Mason Blakey (Northern Knights), Jake Bradley (Northern Knights), Alex Browne (Essendon), Matthew Burt (Box Hill Hawks), Liam Buxton (Vermont), Luke Collins (Montmorency), Daniel Costanzo (Northcote Park), Jacob Duscher (Frankston), Sam Fowler (Dandenong Stingrays), Ben Hurley (Kew), Kane Keppel (Eastern Ranges), Jack Mahon (Frankston), Rob Maibaum (Kew), Angus Milham (Essendon VFL), Cameron O’Shea (Port Adelaide), Fraser Pearce (Port Melbourne), John Rafferty (Knox), Michael Romero (Calder Cannons), Luke Russell (Gold Coast Suns), Marcus Stavrou (Eastern Ranges), Ryan Wiggins (Lauderdale) 

Outs: Daman Aujla, Alex Aurrichio, Jacob Booth, Brent Bransgrove, Ashlin Brown, Jaidyn Caruana, Jack Cripps, Jayden Cyster, Jayden Fox, Billy Hawkes, Lachlan Hickey, Jake Hobbs, Dom Iermano, Liam Jacques, Hisham Kerbatieh, Corey Le-Favi, Max Maynard, Kieran McGuinness, Liam McVeigh, Matthew Reyment, Fraser Russell, Tim Totevski