An extensive look at what’s to come in season 2019 of the VFL. (PHOTO CREDIT: Rose Zarucky)
Northern Blues Media brings you an extensive preview ahead of the club’s VFL season.
It comes in threes
For the second straight season, the Northern Blues have welcomed a trio of players who featured on AFL lists in 2018. And should all of them produce their best, they will go a long way to propelling the Blues up the VFL ladder.
Northern’s opening signing of the off-season was former Western Bulldogs Kieran Collins, who was quickly followed by Alex Johnson (in a dual playing-coaching role) and finally Jonathan O’Rourke.
With a combination of elite standards, AFL and VFL experience and the ability to lead the new wave of Northern’s list, the three could prove to be the difference for the Blues in season 2019.
While they won’t feature in the opening game this Sunday, they will definitely have their say in Northern’s fortunes as the year progresses.
This is it.
With our return to action to come this Sunday, we're delighted to announce our senior list for 2019!#Northbound
— Northern Blues FC (@NBluesFC) April 10, 2019
The familiar faces
That next wave will be from a combination of new and returning players, with Northern recording their largest list retention in a number of years.
Most pleasingly for Josh Fraser’s side, that retention has been in the core of the playing group, including last year’s top four in the Laurie Hill Trophy: Tom Wilson, Sam Fisher, Josh Hill and Jesse Palmer.
Emerging leaders Mason Blakey, Kane Keppel and Marcus Stavrou also return, while promising youngsters including Jordan Lynch and Ethan Penrith were quick to recommit.
When you combine that young talent with the influx of talent from the NAB League, it’s an exciting mix which makes up Northern’s list. Those new faces include Joel Naylor (Northern Knights), Kye Quirk (Eastern Ranges) and Noah Wheeler (Bendigo Pioneers).
It was announced that Tom Wilson will lead the Northern Blues for the fourth straight season.
Having been captain since Josh Fraser’s arrival at the Club, Wilson has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years, capping it off with his third Laurie Hill Trophy at the end of last year.
No surprises here. ????
For the fourth straight year, Tom Wilson will once again lead us in 2019!#Northbound
— Northern Blues FC (@NBluesFC) April 13, 2019
The ‘heart and soul’ of Northern will be flanked by a leadership group consistent with the one which supported him in 2018.
Last year’s joint vice captains Mason Blakey, Kane Keppel and Marcus Stavrou will be joined by Sam Fisher.
After widespread change last year, Northern will head into 2019 with the same assistant coaches supporting Josh Fraser on match days.
Once again, Carlton development coaches Jason Davenport (forwards), Brent Stanton (midfield) and Shane Watson (defenders) will be tasked with leading the Blues.
As part of his dual role, Alex Johnson has doubled up as a development coach throughout the pre-season, featuring on the bench during the practice matches while he continues his rehabilitation. He’ll be joined as a VFL development coach by Perry Meka.
It was a solid preparation for the Blues, who enjoyed four hitouts against VFL opposition in the lead-up to the season proper.
Kicking things off against Port Melbourne, Northern also played Collingwood, Richmond and North Melbourne for the chance to build chemistry and synergy between the AFL and VFL playing groups.
After a draw against the Pies, the Blues enjoyed their first win in the final practice match against North, putting together their best performance to date at the right time.
Fisher was the star in the middle, while from an AFL point-of-view, Tom De Koning shone throughout the practice matches before unfortunately going down with a knee injury. Matthew Kennedy and Jack Silvagni also impressed in midfield in their two practice matches each.
Blues fans got their first look at draftees Finbar O’Dwyer and Ben Silvagni, while rookie acquisition Hugh Goddard was arguably the pick of the bunch in defence.
The Blues kicked off their pre-season matches with a draw against Sandringham, before losses to three of last year’s VFL top four: Box Hill, Richmond and reigning premiers Port Melbourne.
In that time, Northern have seen some positives come to the fore from their young AFL talent.
The Blues found themselves in the peculiar position of having the bye first-up, but will return to action for premiership points this Sunday at Geelong.
With a follow-up clash against Collingwood on Easter Saturday at Victoria Park, the Blues won’t have a home game until Round 4 against Werribee.
Excitingly for Bluebaggers, Northern will play three games as curtain raisers to Carlton games throughout the year, with double-headers officially back on the agenda. They will come in Rounds 8, 18 and 19 of the VFL season.
As things stand, Northern’s nine home games will be split into four at Ikon Park, four at Preston City Oval and one at Marvel Stadium.
Here’s the Northern Blues’ 2019 fixture in full.
50. Tom Wilson, 51. Alex Johnson (Sydney), 52. Marcus Stavrou, 53. Jesse Palmer, 54. Jean-Luc Velissaris, 55. Jonathan O’Rourke (Hawthorn), 56. Arthur Armstrong (Lake Wendouree), 57. Ethan Penrith, 58. Daniel Costanzo, 59. Ben Caluzzi, 60. Josh Hill, 61. Kieran Collins (Western Bulldogs), 62. Chris McCabe, 63. Max Dreher, 64. Jordan Lynch, 65. Joel Naylor (Northern Knights), 66. Glenn Strachan, 67. Ben Hurley, 68. James El Moussalli (Coburg/Essendon VFL), 69. Sam Fisher, 70. Kye Quirk (Eastern Ranges), 71. Jarrod Walters (St Mary’s), 72. Noah Wheeler (Bendigo Pioneers), 73. Oscar White (Northern Knights), 74. Seb Williams (Frankston), 75. Frank Anderson (South Croydon), 77. Mason Blakey, 78. Fin Brown (Heathmont), 79. Tom Hart (Old Xaverians), 80. Kane Keppel
Denotes new player.
Brody Bell, Sunny Brazier, Mitch Crapper, Tom Hallebone, Sam Harte, Zac Hudson, Mitch Kemp, Oskar Manton, Caleb Quirk, John Roumeliotis
Carl Adams, Deven Costigan, Christian Farchione, Alex Federico, Matthew Harman, Jordan Johnston, Jason Kingsbury, Angus Milham, Brendan Myers, Harrison Payne, Fraser Pearce, Andrew Tyquin, Jason Williams