Round 1 of the KNTFL footy season kicks off on Saturday, with great interest surrounding big changes within quite a few clubs.
The headline clash is the rematch of last year’s grand final, with runners-up Kybybolite hosting reigning premiers Penola, but the other four games will also be followed closely.
Border Districts v Mundulla. Borders have just about wiped the slate clean with a huge turnover of players from last season. new coach Darrin Wilson has brought a heap of new recruits with him and they will be keen to play good footy together, but losing top players such as Nick Tarca, Corey Burr, Dan Hargraves and Nyani Thomas definitely won’t help.
Mundulla looks like being quite steady from last year and has added some class and depth with the return of some young former locals as well as key on-baller Grady Obst. The Moots will be looking to build on last year's fifth placing and will be warm favourites to start 2017 with a win.
Keith v Kingston. Keith’s non-playing coach of the last few years Brad Richardson gets a tough challenge first-up in his debut game in charge of Kingston.
Keith is perenially strong and there’s no reason why they can’t finish as high or higher than last year’s fourth placing.
Kingston has been near the bottom the last few years and has lost quite a bit of class with on-baller Karl Lohde and a handful of others moving on. The Saints will be keen under Richardson but might be outclassed here.
Kybybolite v Penola. Kyby would have been looking for grand final redemption ever since being beaten by Penola in last year’s premiership finale, and they haven’t put a foot wrong in preparation thus far.
The Tigers have kept nearly all of last year’s top 21 and have added a few more including WA recruit Josh Stark, so confidence will be high that they can start on a positive note at home.
Penola has lost several of last year’s stars including on-ballers Matt Willson, Kane Ransom and Brett Lindner, forwards Ryan Richardson and Bailey Walker and defenders Tom Pearce and Matt Ferguson, but the big news this week is former K/L United ruckman Seb Guilhaus has lodged a clearance to play with the Eagles.
With key position player Drew Clayfield also coming back to the club and with enviable depth having won the reserves premiership in 2016, Penola will still run out a fit and strong side and this game is nearly too hard to call. A narrow win to the reigning premiers maybe?
Lucindale v Naracoorte. Lucindale has held on to all of its stars from last year and added a good one in ex-SANFL player Scott Spriggs, while 2016 recruit Riley Milne has recovered after missing all of last year. The Roos look set to finish at least as high as last year’s third placing.
Naracoorte hasn’t been able to find many recruits apart from Hayden Biddle, and has lost its best tall in George McWaters and best small in Matt Gill.
Despite adding some good senior colts from last season, it looks like being a tough year for Naracoorte and Lucindale will be hot favourites to have a first-up win at home.
Padthaway v K/L United. There’ll be plenty of interest in this one with both sides picking up some exciting recruits.
Former Port Adelaide AFL players Wade Thompson (Padthaway) and Cam Hitchcock (KLU) will go head to head and there are many other new players for both sides.
Padthaway only just missed the finals last year and has a more solid base to build on, so while KLU will look to improve, Padthaway at home will be a tough game in round 1.
Bordertown has the bye in round 1.