COACH: ROB DANIEL.
MFL PREMIERSHIPS: 1952, 1954, 1958, 1971, 1981, 1982, 1988
2016 FINISH: SECOND (17–3)
2016 BEST-AND-FAIREST: ED BARLOW
2016 LEADING GOAL-KICKER: ED BARLOW (49)
GROUND: FINLEY RECREATION RESERVE
It’s almost impossible to ignore the large number of departures from last year’s runner-up, and the impact it will have on the side, but Finley is remaining upbeat.
Club president Ash Haynes said it was just one of those “cyclical events” where players decided the time was right to move on.
The Cats have contested three of the past five grand finals without success and this year will rely on a mix of loyal locals and young talent.
The club will say goodbye to its marquee Melbourne-based players, including last year’s O’Dwyer medallist Ned Morrison and former AFL players Ed Barlow and Ed Lower.
“We’ve still got the nucleus of a really good side,” Haynes said. “It might not be a grand final side but we’re hopeful of a mid-field finish. We’re still looking to add some senior players to the side and we’ve got a very good coach in Rob Daniel.”
Haynes pointed to thirds graduates — talented midfielders Zeke Carruthers and Luke Moore, utility Tom Burns and key position tall Damon Anderson — to step up to the top grade.
All four played in the Cats’ losing under-17 grand final side last year. The Cats have also kept key position brothers Tim and Will Robertson and classy onballers Lachie Small, Shaun Kable and Kyle Russell, all members of last year’s grand final side.
“Our core group of senior players is going to be so important to the club this year helping Rob (Daniel) jell the boys together,” Haynes said. “We’ve obviously entered a rebuilding phase at the club and will concentrate on developing the juniors this year.
“Our under-17s played off in a grand final last year and a lot of those players were second-year or bottom-age so we know we’ve got some real talent to come through the ranks and build on over the next couple of years.”
OUT: Ned Morrison, Ed Barlow, Ed Lower, Jordan Daniel, Jed Brain, Zac Brain, Tim McKenzie, Tim Robertson, Nick Robertson, Angus Robertson, Matt Jackson, Ben McKie, Reid Crowe, Nathan McLelland, Max Lawrence, Tom Doyle, Lachie Hawkins, Ollie Ford, Rich Findlay, Mitch Ryan, James Kennedy
GAME CHANGER: Rob Daniel There is little doubt that losing most of last year’s grand final side is going to test the club’s depth. Thankfully the Cats have experienced non-playing coach Rob Daniel at the helm to help jell the new playing roster together for what is expected to be a challenging season ahead.