PORTLAND footballers and netballers will get a gauge of where they stand in the Hampden Football Netball League competition tomorrow when they kick off round one against Warrnambool at Hanlon Park.
After a number of key players departed from last year’s history-making senior football finals side, many due to relocating, the Tigers are keen to put their line up to the test in round one.
There are opportunities aplenty for the team this year, with the departures making way to test out some young and exciting talent.
Leading the charge in taking new opportunities is Josh Edwards who is stepping into the role of captain after being a consistent contributor in Portland’s backline, while Sam Hampshire has been named vice-captain.
The 23-year-old captain said it’s his first time in the top job and after playing alongside former leaders in Daniel Jackson and Rhys Egan he says he has had a lot of people to look up to.
“It’s a really nice feeling that Holty has confidence and sees some leadership in me,” he said.
“Seeing the way Jacko captained was great with his on-field and off-field leadership and I take a bit away from what he did, but also all of the leaders around the club like Rhys Egan and other blokes that lead the way in their own way.
“We’re feeling positive; there’s been a lot of outside noise about us maybe not being any good but internally the group has stayed strong and are feeling good and think we can be in a better spot than what people are saying.
“Finals are definitely still on the cards, I don’t see why not.”
Senior coach Jarrod Holt said preseason has been a bit up and down but things have really solidified in the past month, with the team looking forward to getting on the ground and seeing what they’re capable of.
“Preseason has been okay, since we’ve been back at Hanlon Park it has been much better,” he said.
“We’ve been training at different venues for most of preseason (due to upgrades of the Hanlon Park surface) and we’ve got solid numbers but things have really picked up in the last few weeks.
“We’ve had a few practice matches and that’s helped us get sorted with how we want to line up to start the season and where people fit in the team.”
While there has been plenty of change among the playing group, Holt said it has opened the door for players to take on different roles.
“Pretty much our whole midfield has gone from last year so we’ve been working through some things and we’ve done some reshuffling and players who were coming off the half back flank last year will rotate through the middle – the likes of Connor Peters and Davey Denboer,” he said.
Portland still has plenty of firepower in their line up with the likes of Jake Wilson expected to hold the fort in the backline while young forward options including Hampshire and Will Hunter, who returns to the Tigers after a season with Hamilton Kangaroos, will take on bigger roles.
“Jake has been playing in the practice matches and he’s looking good; our whole backline is looking pretty solid,” Holt said.
“In the forward line we’ll have Sam and Will and some other young guys and it’ll be a great chance for them to step up.
“We know through the middle it might take a bit of time with a different group but we’re fine with that.”
With Warrnambool also making finals last year Holt is expecting them to be a tough opposition but said the playing group is excited to get the season underway.
“I want them to have a crack; the boys have been pretty up and about and keen to start playing so we want them to bring that,” he said.