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New clubs, new players, new hopes for clubs, and there’s plenty more for the football side of things as the 2024 Maryborough Castlemaine District Football Netball League season approaches.


Much of the intrigue across the first part of the season will surround the introduction of the Maryborough Giants, borne as a result of the merger between Maryborough Rovers and Royal Park.


A fresh face comes across to coach the team in former Essendon and Brisbane AFL player Damian Cupido, who takes on the role after moving across from Murrabit in the Golden Rivers Football League. A number of players will come across with him, including Inglewood trio Mason Wright, Seth Hoskin and Ethan Wright, Carisbrook’s Aiden Carter and Winchelsea’s Damian Tabakovic. The Giants will open the season with a standalone match at Hedges Oval against Talbot, who will be hoping to return to the eight after missing out last season.


There will be some intrigue to this encounter, with former Royal Park trio Rhys Egan, Brandon Solomano and Mark Ashmore moving down the road to the Hawks, while Taylors Lake’s Mark Lane and Waubra’s Dylan Page also joins the Hawks. Phil Crouch’s Hawks will be hoping to move into the eight after just missing out over the last two seasons, and with a young playing group with plenty of potential, the sky could yet be the limit for the club.


Back-to-back premiers Harcourt are currently riding a 27-game winning streak, and are looking to leave no stone unturned in their quest for a three-peat, signing Marong’s Carl Thiesz as their new coach, taking over from Dan Wridgway who is focusing on his young family. It’s a different looking Lions team this year, and Thiesz brings along a number of mates from the Panthers, who have just finished up their own unbeaten season in the Loddon Valley league, including Patrick Gretgrix, Thorne Wilson and Jacob Ede. Perhaps some of the bigger names of the off-season have also made their way to the Den, with Golden Square’s Braydon Vaz set to be a blockbuster signing, while a third Anderson brother joins Luke and Cameron, with Nathan signing from North Bendigo after some promising form in the under 18s at that club. However, the Lions have also had to wave goodbye to Kal Huntly, Darby Semmens, Brayden Frost and Bryce Frost, who are all moving up to the Bendigo Football Netball League.


Perhaps the busiest team of the summer has been Dunolly, who have been on a signing spree, bringing in at least 17 new players. The Eagles have welcomed back Adal Zuk from Wycheproof Narraport and Bailey Wingrave from North Bendigo, while other signings have seen Jack Merrin and Zane Taylor join from Golden Square, while former Maiden Gully coach Jay McDonald and West Footscray’s Brayden Mitchell, Hunter McDonald, Bailey Hall and Dylan Toulmin all join Bailey Goodwin’s club. The Eagles will now look to use the disappointment of missing the finals last year into ensuring that they return to action in 2024, having had a brief taste of it in 2022 after a long drought.


Runner-up Carisbrook have also been making bulk changes, bringing in Maryborough trio Oscar Tatchell, Brady Neill and Darcy Bond, while also bringing in Todd Bryant, who has been successful at interstate football. They’ll have big shoes to fill for Luke Treacy’s Redbacks, with the likes of Harry Butler, Zak Rinaldi and leading goalkicker Anthony Zelencich all departing during the off-season. The Redbacks will leave nothing on the table in their quest to win back a premiership which was last won in 2018, having lost three consecutive grand finals by a cumulative total of just 23 points.


Having been well positioned to compete for a premiership over the last few seasons, Trentham, and Clive Raak, are now looking to pounce with changes at Harcourt and Carisbrook, and will be hoping to snap a 30-year premiership drought. Perhaps most importantly, they have been able to secure another year out of reigning Berry Powell Medal winner Joel Cowan, who’ll provide so much out of the midfield this season. The Saints have a strong VAFA feel to it this year, signing Old Melburnians quartet Hugo Hall, Liam Ratliff, Tom Fuller and Sam Kelly, while Kyneton duo Rohan Sutherland and Ryder Henchie, Alexandra’s Spencer Ratliff, Hepburn’s Shane Black and Romsey’s Jarred Lee also joins. The Saints will need them to fire to replace the likes of Cooper Webber-Mirkin, Taylor Ford and Dylan Holden, who have all departed the club.


Natte Bealiba are looking to return to the summit, and have made a number of good signings as a result to give second-year playing-coach Trent Mortlock a boost going into 2024. Brad Power joins from Picola United, while Jake Postle and Bailey Jacobs come across from Maryborough. Tom Roughead and David Miles will also be returning to the setup. The Swans have also secured a one-off game from Dane Swan, who will be playing for them in round four against Navarre.


The Hoppers, for their part, have had plenty of changes over the offseason, and in a way, it feels like the end of an era for many champions who played their part in their historic 50-game winning run. Cody Driscoll, Josh Fowkes, Angus Barham and Ash Driscoll have all departed to the Stawell Warriors, while Billy Driscoll has joined Koondrook Barham. In comes St Arnaud’s Nick Birthisel, East Point’s Bradley Carter, Keilor’s Angus Taylor, Lake Boga’s Dustin Holmes and Lysterfield’s Dante Lorusso as Jack Jess’ Hoppers look to jump into the top four.


Maldon took a step forward in 2023 under the tutelage of Damien Lock, and will be hoping to join the fight for a spot in the top four in 2024, making some new signings across the way. Hayden Kelly is a big in, returning to the club after a year off, while under 17.5 best and fairest Brandon Carter will also look to make an impression with the Dons. Maiden Gully’s Damian Wust, North Bendigo’s Brayden Oates and Natte Bealiba’s Thomas Colston are also some significant ins.


Dylan Lewis’ Lexton took a slight step backwards after Maldon reversed the 2022 elimination final result last year in a thriller, and the Tigers have brought back a crew which should help them move up if the opportunity is there. Lochlan Pett and Dan Chester both return to the club, while they have also brought in Waubra’s brotherly duo, Aiden and Brad Broughton, Lismore Derrinaallum’s Patty Parr, Sebastopol’s Tom McGregor, Maryborough’s Luke Guelen, Beaufort’s Joel Chester and Bungaree’s Brett Trevenen.


Newstead, under the coaching of Joel Smith and Derrick Filo, had a taste of finals last year, but after a strong start and falling away in the second half, will be hoping to ensure they stay strong all the way around this time. There’s a strong Kerang influence at the club, with Adam Hunter, Hayden Hall, Michael Runciman, Michael Dalrymple, Dylan McGrath and Lachlan Hall joining Longwood’s Dylan Gordois and Maldon’s Finian Mackenzie as new signings at the Roos.


Avoca will be looking to rejoin the finals fight after a couple of years of struggle, and Zack Lubeek has wasted no time in getting a number of new signings to his club. Maryborough young duo Jacob Merino and Riley Hamilton will look to make an immediate impact, while Carngham Linton’s Joseph Niblett, Gordon duo Clayton Winter and Blake Taylor and St Arnaud trio Jamie Beavis, Nathan and Nicholas Coghlan will also make their mark at the Bulldogs. While the Bulldogs only won two games last season, they will be hoping to add more to the list in 2024 and join their all-conquering netball team in the finals mix.


Campbells Creek will be hoping to rebound after a difficult 2024 which saw them lose every game, and under Matt Manning, who took over midway through 2023, will be hoping to gain competitiveness. To do that, they have brought back Dylan Stevens from Newbridge, while Harcourt’s Ryan Dzioba, Clunes’ Mitch Kerney and South Morang’s Cody Wilson also joins.