Last year’s grand finalists South Warrnambool and Warrnambool have lost many players this season.GRAND finalists South Warrnambool and Warrnambool will field vastly different sides when they meet in next month’s season-opening Hampden Football Netball League match.
Nanjing Night Net

As clubs finalise their playing lists, last year’s competition pace-setter South Warrnambool is preparing to start its premiership defence without nine of its triumphant 21 players.

The Roosters have lost 12 of their best 24 players that dominated last season, winning 19 out of 20 games, including the flag by 41 points.

Across the city at Reid Oval, Warrnambool expects to be without a third of its grand final side.

Despite the departures, both coaches are upbeat about their clubs’ chances of playing major roles in September’s finals series after landing quality recruits and promoting talented teenagers.

Roosters coach Matthew Peake acknowledged the departure of quality players had weakened the Roosters but predicted his side would remain a tough opponent.

The Roosters still have more than half their premiership stars, including last year’s co-captains Danny Finn and Jarrod Thompson.

“I’m not going to make any statements we are going to win the grand final or play-off, but we are still in a pretty good position,” Peake said.

“Our best side on paper (this year), barring injuries, would have probably got to the grand final last year.”

Peake said he was aware the reigning premier had been written off by some pundits.

“I’m happy for people to talk about doom and gloom, I want them to keep talking up North Warrnambool and Warrnambool. As a coaching group we are still pretty confident we will be up there, but we may not be as dominant as we were.”

The Roosters have regained talented midfielder James Hussey, who played in Geelong last season after largely playing with the Geelong Falcons in 2010.

They have also regained key defender Ben Mugavin and recruited Hawkesdale-Macarthur running player Kurt Buchanan, South Rovers big man Sam McCosh and Dennington veteran and former Rooster Jacob Rhodes.

But the ace in Peake’s hand could be the return of key forward Kym Eagleson, who was limited to just six games in his debut year with the club after a string of goalkicking awards in minor leagues.

Warrnambool coach Scott Carter maintains the Blues are aiming for a top-three finish after picking up some quality midfielders, including former Collingwood VFL player Tim Hunt and dual West Gambier premiership player Kayne O’Brien.

The Blues, like South, have farewelled integral members of their 2010 premiership team, ruckman Rhys Raymond and wingman Kurt Lenehan among them.

They are also unlikely to have match-winning utility Ash McCorkell.

Carter said the Blues would have “six to seven” new faces from the side that was defeated by the Roosters in the grand final.

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