HAVING advanced through to the fourth round of the Mirabella Cup at the weekend, Ballarat Red Devils’ attention turns to the Football Federation Victoria state league two season opener against Clifton Hill on Saturday.
New playing manager Brian Shelley has worked on a big fitness build-up, and while not playing as many practice matches as over the past few years, the Reds have done almost 50 per cent more training than in other campaigns.
The Reds have not only seen a big change in personnel – probably the biggest in the club’s history with some 12 to 15 players released – but roles have been switched throughout the pre-season.
Let go by the Haymes Red Devils have been the likes of Tristan Romein, Paul McClounan, Ryan Rykers, Franck Labakohler, Luke Armstrong and Nelson Salvatore, along with Englishmen Michael Leslie, Sam Winch, Jermaine Fletcher and goalkeeper Darryl Newby.
This signifies well over 1000 games of experience lost.
“It was a very busy off season for me and a lot of decisions had to be made around the playing group but I am really happy with the squad we have assembled,” Shelley said.
“It was very important to retain the young talent we have at the club and I am really excited by the prospect of helping to develop these players.”
Of course, Shelley returns for a second season after dominating last year.
The other big announcement over the summer was the re-signing of gun centre-forward Adam Newbold.
After breaking his leg in the run to the play-offs last season, Newbold returns with unfinished business.
As well as scoring goals, Newbold sets just as many up and the big benefactor of that could be Daniel Forlandsaas. He comes to the Reds with big wraps on scoring goals and so far has banged in five during the pre-season and three in the Mirabella Cup.
Also coming in to the squad is big summer signing Sean Harding.
“Sean is a player I have been aware of for the last couple of years and have came up against him a couple of times in the Irish Premier League.
For me, Sean can play at the highest level in this country and to secure a player of his quality was an excellent signing for the club,” Shelley said.
The Reds have also invested in a new keeper. Simon Williams, although still a young gloveman, has been exposed to European football while playing for Welsh Premier League team TNS.
Strong defender John Duffield is another new player who can play across the back-line and could even move into the midfield if needed.
On top of all the excellent players the club has brought in, the Reds have probably their most exciting group of youngsters ever.
Players that could become household names in Ballarat in a couple of years’ time include Stefan Nigro, Sam Wines, Pietro Angeli, Isaac Ellis and Pat Karras.
The balance will be made up of youngsters that have already seen a year or two of state league football, Will Georgiou, Charlie King, Kyran Taylor, Daniel Tinker, Simon Murphy, Michael Trigger, Alex Antonelli and new skipper David King.
If these players have big years this could just make the difference in winning more games and pushing up the ladder.