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Published on:
28 March 2024
Written By Nathan Dole
Written By Nathan Dole

AN ALL-MAGPIES clash between Castlemaine and Maryborough on Good Friday at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve marks the start of the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League season.

A crucial area both clubs have worked on across pre-season is skills.

Turnovers hurt both teams in ’23, especially against the strongest teams in the league.

Quick movement from defence to attack is what fans can expect both line-ups strive to do.

On the footy field Castlemaine and Maryborough have several recruits keen to make their mark.

Among the newcomers is Castlemaine coach Michael Hartley who brings playing experience from AFL stints with Essendon and Hawthorn, and at VFL level with Collingwood.

Hartley will be part of a Castlemaine attack boasting more goalkicking and marking power.

Key targets inside the 50m arc are likely to include Bailey Henderson and Brad Keogh.

Castlemaine has also bolstered its depth in the on-ball and midfield areas.

The bigger body of Declan Slingo who returns from Pyramid Hill to team up with Matt Filo and Callum McConachy at centre bounces is an area where Castlemaine may hold an edge.

Maryborough’s on-ball division is likely to be led by co-coaches Coby Perry and Matt Johnston, and the skilful Joel Swatton who capped his first year at the club by earning the Geoff MacIlwain Medal as fairest and best.

Fans of Castlemaine will be rapt to see Kalan Huntly and Darby Semmens back at the club after premiership wins with Harcourt Lions in the Maryborough Castlemaine District FNL.

Both could start on the wing where their ability in close and also pace will test the opposition all match.

Another premiership winner, Zavier Murley is back with the ‘Maine after Golden Square’s run to glory last September.

The club also has the talented Will Moran back from Sandhurst.

Other players to watch for Castlemaine include Liam Wilkinson,

Hartley said being a stand-alone match was great for both clubs.

“At Castlemaine it’s a new beginning. The club is confident of drawing a big crowd and starting the season with a win.”

The season opener will be a huge challenge for a Maryborough team jointly coached by Coby Perry and Matt Johnston.

A team intent on being far more competitive takes its first steps toward doing so on Castlemaine’s turf.

Johnston believes the ruck is where Maryborough can control of lot of the Good Friday match and more as the season rolls on.

Ty Stewart is the team’s number one ruckman and will have support from Tom Myers and Seb Collins.

Recruits at Princes Park include Robert Castiglia from Westmeadows; Seb Collins from Sandhurst; and Beau Trahar from Leitchville Gunbower.

A 19-year-old, Castiglia’s fitness and skills have impressed the Magpies’ coaches and team-mates.

Ash Humphrey and Fraser Russell add much-needed experience to a squad in which Jye Swatton, Kya Lanfranchi and Darcy Bond were stand-outs for a lot of last season.

The game plan is for Russell to start in attack, but also have some stints in midfield.

The Magpies also welcome back Kirk Looby from St Arnaud and Ronnie Feeney from Maryborough Giants.

Maryborough’s under-18s had a great run in ’23 to reach the finals.

Those stepping up to senior footy include Lachy Bursill, Aidan Medlyn, Tom Myers and Cobie Read.

The Magpies also have more players pushing for senior selection.

Johnston said there was too great a reliance on a few in many of last season’s matches.

A fitter and stronger Maryborough team will also be working hard to limit the moments when teams take control and slam on multiple goals.

At the netball, Castlemaine’s A-grade team has a rest as Maryborough is not in the top flight this season.

The A-reserve netball match starts at 2pm.

The senior footy match starts at 2.20pm.