BALLARAT Red Devils will make their National Premier League Victoria debut tonight without three of their most experienced recruits.
English import Danny O’Donnell joins player-manager James Robinson (knee) and Dan Milovanovic (suspended) on the sidelines.
While the McDonalds Reds have been preparing to be without Robinson and Milovanovic, they are disappointed paperwork has not been completed in time to get O’Donnell on the pitch for the NPLV division one season opener against Bentleigh Greens.
O’Donnell arrived in Australia on Tuesday.
Milovanovic is serving a one-match ban, incurred as a result of two yellow cards while playing with Bentleigh in last season’s Victorian Premier League finals.
Robinson is not fazed by the prospect of sending a youthful line-up into battle against last year’s VPL runner-up.
“It’s exciting, exciting for everyone.
“When you get that feeling in your stomach it’s not nerves, it’s excitement.”
The Reds put the finishing touches to their match preparation last night with a pre-game analysis.
Robinson will announce the final make-up of his team today.
Robinson has no qualms about the pre-season being much shorter than players are accustomed to, owing to the delay in the NPLV getting the green light.
“It’s actually been a perfect pre-season.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work on the pitch.
“The application of the boys has been unbelievable.”
He praised the fitness of his players, highlighting the absence of soft tissue injuries.
Robinson said it had been important not to “go over the top” pre-season after the late start.
He said it was important to have the team as close to full strength as possible now for the long-term good of the squad – allowing it work into the season.
Robinson said Ballarat’s first game would be all about intensity and controlling their own environment.
“We’d like to play an attractive brand of football, be proactive, excite the crowd.”
He has no doubt Bentleigh will provide a huge test, but he is not shying clear of the challenge.
The Courier will provide updates from the Ballarat Red Devils’ NPLV season opener on twitter @sportcourier and online wwwthecourier.com.au, as well a match review and photos from the big moment in Ballarat sport.
Bentleigh v Ballarat
at Kingston Heath tonight
Port Melbourne v Dandenong
Melbourne v Northcote City
Goulburn Valley v Oakleigh
Hume City v Pascoe Vale
Green Gully v Werribee City
South Melbourne 3 d Heidelberg 0