COACH: CRAIG WHYTE
MFL PREMIERSHIPS: 1939, 1949, 1963, 1978, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016
2016 FINISH: PREMIER (17–3)
2016 BEST-AND-FAIREST: BRODIE ROSS
2016 LEADING GOAL-KICKER: BRODIE ROSS (60)
GROUND: NATHALIA RECREATION RESERVE
If there was any doubt that the past decade in the Murray Football League belonged to Nathalia, it was dispelled last year when it achieved back-to-back premiership glory yet again. For those playing at home, that is three flags in four seasons and seven in the past dozen years.
By anyone’s standards that is an amazing era of domination, but coach Craig Whyte wants more. “If you don’t aim high, you won’t finish high,” he said.
“We’ve got a solid group who understand what’s required and we’re having a solid pre-season, the boys are definitely putting the work in and are in good physical condition.”
Naturally there have been changes in the off-season for the Purples, but, in worrying news for the rest of the competition, the reigning premiers have come out on the right side of the ledger for their tilt at a second three-peat in 10 years.
“I think the guys we’ve picked up plus the natural progression of our 18 to 21-year-olds will hold us in good stead,” Whyte said.
“Local players returning to the club is our mould and that’s what we’ve done again.” The returning players include former Shepparton United captain Ryan Butler, a huge pick-up for the Purples.
The loss of club legends Ash and Luke Quinn will sting, but Whyte is confident his charges can fill the hole.
“It’s a shame to lose those guys and their experience,” he said.
“But we’ve got really good leaders around the traps still and hopefully the young blokes follow suit.”
Whyte will be pulling on the boots again after an injury-hampered couple of seasons, but he will be the exception to the rule at Nathalia Recreation Reserve this year.
“I’ve been training and I’ll be pulling on the boots again this year,” Whyte, 34, said.
“I think our average age is about 22 or 23, so we’re really looking forward to the season ahead.”
GAME CHANGER: Brodie Ross The gun full-forward swept the Nathalia awards night after booting 60 goals and snaring the club best-and-fairest. Ross’ ability to change a game was highlighted superbly when he booted the winning goal in the 25th minute of the last quarter in the grand final last year, and he will be hoping to repeat the dose this year.
IN: Ryan Butler (Shepparton United), Ryan Butler (Kyabram), Todd Hicks (Picola), Jared Laffy (Shepparton), Paul McCallum (Albury)
OUT: Matthew Brown, Ash Quinn, Luke Quinn (Waaia), Jai Morrison (Numurkah)