By JESS WEBSTER
Last year’s wooden spooners have a fresh outlook in 2019 as they attempt to climb back up the ladder from a last-placed finish in 2018.
It started as a season full of promise for Redland as the Bombers were confident of improving on their eight-placed finish in 2017. Their first victory didn’t come until Round 4 against NT Thunder in Alice Springs, but it failed to kick-start their season with several chances falling through the cracks. Despite boasting the competitions’ best fullback Adrian Williams, and twin towers Matt Hammelmann and Jackson Paine up forward, the Bombers lost six games by four goals or less as they slumped to the bottom of the ladder.
WHAT’S NEW IN 2019
Former club games record holder Phil Carse has returned to the Bombers this year to lead the side as a playing-coach. Paine is a big loss, but Carse has brought with him some handy recruits from Victoria, including Sam Cunnington and Cameron Spence, who were an assistant coach and captain respectively at Carse’ former club Camperdown. Blair McCutcheon is a three-time premiership player with Koroit and another young gun, Matthew McGannon, made the 2018 TAC Cup Team of the Year. Soul Cormick will also be like a new recruit in his comeback from an ACL injury.
The season can’t start of any tough for the Bombers, who travel to Fankhauser Reserve to take on defending premier Southport in Round 1. After the early litmus test, Redland hosts Canberra Round 2 – a team which recorded its highest ever winning margin at the same venue last year.
Two more tough matches round out the first month for the Bombers, who battle Sydney at Blacktown before their annual ANZAC Round showdown against NT Thunder at home. Last year, the Bombers’ only victory came against NT Thunder in the corresponding round in Alice Springs, and they’ll be hoping history repeats itself.
2019 WILL BE A HIT IF…
Competitiveness will be a big goal for Redland in 2019 after a disappointing season last year. The club hasn’t played finals in four years, and while a top six finish is ambitious, they’ll want to show some signs this year that finals is a realistic goal in the next few years. In addition, for a club with a rich history of AFL draftees, they’ll be aiming for one or two of their long list of young guns to make their mark, and have their AFL dreams realised at season’s end.
2019 WILL BE A MISS IF…
… Redland produces a similar season to last year. One win stripped the playing group of its belief and confidence, and the competition won’t get any easier in 2019. Midfield depth will test Redland this year, especially after losing key recruit Darcy Graham to an ACL injury after an innocuous training incident a fortnight ago. They have a strong core, and together with some fresh faces to the club and a new coach, the Bombers will be avoiding the wooden spoon at all costs.
Williams and Hammelmann were the standouts for the Bombers last year, but look for a few players to return back to their best. Clay Cameron has been terrific this pre-season after illness severely impacted his 2018 season, and he is primed for a big season. Jack Rolls will only grow as a midfielder after a record fourth NEAFL Rising Star nomination last year, and recruits Cunnington, Spence and McCutcheon will be fantastic additions.
You can’t deny the Bombers will have plenty of young talent to keep your eye on in 2019. McGannon, 19, will be a contender for the NEAFL Rising Star Award and Cormick, 21, still harbours AFL aspirations in his comeback from a knee injury. Throw in the likes of former Lions Academy members Caleb Franks, Billy Johnson, and Jai Kennealy – who are entering their first full season with one club – and the future remains bright for the club.
TO KICK THINGS OFF…
Round 1 – April 6
Southport v Redland at Fankhauser Reserve, 1.30pm.
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