IF the inner sanctum at Lake Wendouree doesn’t know what to expect from the Green Machine this season, what hope does the opposition have?
Fewer than half the players who lined up for the Sectrol Lakers in last season’s first semi-final against North Ballarat City will be seen in the green for the club’s round one Red Onion Ballarat Football League clash with Bacchus Marsh on Saturday.
Instead there will be up to 13 different faces, representing real generational change. They include a Geelong Football League recruit — running half back Danny Gray from Newtown-Chilwell — and two players who have crossed from the Hampden league: onballer Claye Kelson from South Warrnambool and defender Ben Smith from crosstown rival North Warrnambool.
There are also two players who have returned to Wendouree Reserve: Charlie Edmonston (Cobram) and Daniel Pratt (Bungaree), and three promoted under-18.5 players: Ash Simpson, Norton Darrigan and Brock Orval.
The remainder will likely come from the Lakers’ reserves team that finished top of the ladder last season before being bundled out in straight sets in the finals, including Sam Clifton, Michael Neal and Michael Madden.
New Lakers playing coach Gavin Webb admits that with so many changes, it may take some weeks before the club knows what it has.
“We’ve pretty well finalised the team for Saturday,” Webb says. “It is an unknown, especially with me also coaching for the first time. It will take some time to work out where blokes’ best positions are.
“It will take a while, we understand that, but it is a positive. We have had a really positive pre-season.”
Webb says Edmonston and Pratt are significantly more advanced players compared with when they left.
As for the under-18.5 players who will be making their debuts on Saturday, Darrigan is a wingman who has come through the Lakers’ junior system, Simpson is a half-back flanker who is on the North Ballarat Rebels list and whose father coached the Lakers following a playing career at East Ballarat, and Orval is a boarder at Ballarat Grammar who has come from Mallee club Beulah and is a key position prospect.
“It is a much younger side but across the board we think a lot of teams will be the same,” Webb says.
“We think it will be a younger competition.
“Without ‘Macca’ (Paul McMahon) up forward, we will play differently. We might be kicking shorter with fewer big targets.”
Webb says there were no injuries at Lakerland, although skipper Ben Taylor will miss the first two games through suspension.