Action a plenty at Casadio Park

All eyes will be on Casadio Park where Gambier Centrals looks to establish itself as the powerhouse senior men’s side of the region.

That will be just one of the many storylines heading into the first stage of 2022 after one of the closest Limestone Coast Football Association seasons in the last decade.

Centrals put themselves on the path to success by winning the Steeline Cup at home last year and will be looking to generate a similar amount of confidence from this weekend’s preseason carnival.

But there will be a new face in charge with Brodey Koop taking over the coaching duties from current LCFA CEO Chris Fleetwood.

The premiership playing squad has also been unable to avoid changes with four of the starting XI departing.

But coming in are Millicent’s James Davey, plus Ben Loef and Paul Belino, while Alex Hill and Rhyleigh Hollands return to the club after a season away.

Centrals has already hit the pitch against Naracoorte and hoped to gain further knowledge against Port Fairy, but the contest was cancelled due to player unavailability, so an internal trail was played instead.

Buoyed by their breakthrough flag last year, the Lions kicked into gear at the end of January and have built up to this weekend.

Centrals will be keeping some cards close to their chest by carrying a team not quite at full strength with some being rested ahead of the season.

Koop said there was a positive vibe around the club as it prepared to ignite its premiership defence.

“There is a real good feeling about the place at the moment,” he said.

“Nothing quite compares to playing games again and with the season at our doorstep everyone’s keen to get going.

“This will give us an opportunity to trial a few different options and have confidence in whatever team we put on the park.”

Apollo will be determined to bounce back from last year’s grand final defeat, but can carry plenty of belief after reaching the top tier in 2021.

The blue and white showed no fear which was proven by a stunning preliminary final win over Inter.

Say Wah and Adam Walker were some of the biggest contributors and are some of the rising stars from Webb Street.

The man who led Apollo to the decider, James Stephenson is back and is pumped for soccer to return.

“Honestly its just nice to run out on a pitch and feel alive,” he said.

“We started back in January and have a couple out and a few in.

“But we will always try to be competitive and look forward to what should be a great competition this year.”

This season is all about redemption for International after its dream of a five peat was dashed by bowing out of finals in straight sets.

Despite stumbling at the last hurdle, the class of the black and blue was evident for all to see as they secured yet another minor premiership without losing a single game.

Matt Bueti took home another golden boot and will be hunting more goals this weekend, but one man who will not return is last year’s best and fairest Connor Prior, who is searching for bigger things in Adelaide.

Inter has already travelled to Melbourne to participate in the inaugural United Petroleum Cup against Manningham Juventus.

Inter coach Vlada Gajic said the team is in a good spot and hopes to put on a show for the home fans as the club prepares to host the men’s carnival.

“There is a really good feel around the club this year with morale high and the great anticipation of the first game,” he said.

“Preseason started in late January and the intensity has increased throughout building team fitness and chemistry.

“There are a few new faces and the coaching team is happy with the squad.

“The trial game was a good opportunity to test our depth and play positive football.”

Naracoorte was another team to catch a few by surprise last year causing runners-up Apollo some headaches in particular.

Brad Pilven, McDonald Nehanda and George Matutuva were the most consistent performers last year and will be turned to make more magic.

David Clifford is excited at the prospect of coaching Naracoorte for the first time this weekend.

“The season has come up quickly, so this will be a good hit out to finalise playing lists and positions,” he said.

“We have picked up a few players that have moved into town, but lost two A Graders from last year.

“We have played against Centrals and Bordertown and had a good turnout so far.”

The Blue Lake Rangers will be hoping to close the gap to the rest in 2022 and a new coach hopes to turn the team around.

Andy Armadi has taken over last year’s wooden spooners and is ready for the new challenge after taking on the Warrnambool Wolves.

“We are keen for the season and there is definitely a good vibe around Blue Lake at the moment,” he said.

“We have been training for about four months and the squad has put in the hard yards.

“It is a rebuild year for us and a lot of players are keen to prove themselves.”

Millicent was another team to only score one win during the minor-round season, but made a big impression at the Steeline Cup sneaking into finals.

Despite the loss of Davey, names such as Mathew Gregetic and Nickel Chand will be determined to ensure Millicent’s goal difference is not the worst of the lot.

The club has only played trail games and has trained since the first week of February.

“There is always a level of excitement and anticipation with the start of a new season,” Millicent president Ian Lines said.

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