Hills footy is back with a vengeance

Sponsored by THINK! Road Safety

As Community Football leagues across the State finally embark on their 2020 season, we take a look at how each league is shaping up, brought to you by Think! Road Safety.

After the devastating bushfires, then COVID, all 19 clubs are raring to go in the Hills FL.

By Nick Dillon

The Hills Football League has come through the Coronavirus pandemic with all 19 clubs going ahead.

The largest league outside of Adelaide has done a tremendous job to get all nine division one clubs, the nine division two (now Country Division) clubs, plus C grade club Milang to play this year.

And credit must also go to the clubs themselves according to HFL president Don Cranwell.

“The most important thing we did was to have informal forums with the club presidents where they could share their concerns,” Cranwell said.

“Interestingly enough, at the first forum we reached a consensus to go to zero payments which might surprise a few people.

“That was a pretty powerful message, that they were worried about the cost of returning to play, but it also gave the clubs a lot more confidence in planning for the future.”

Some clubs had bigger concerns that others, with the lockdown revealing a huge diversity in the economic models of each club.

“We had two clubs who were pretty shaky in the country division because they had an older volunteer base,” he said.

All clubs, however, managed to pull through and will play their first games this weekend.

Both divisions will see each team play each other once, finishing the minor round with eight games each.

Hahndorf is in a strong position to win a hat-trick of division one premierships but will face opposition from Onka Valley, Mt Barker and Lobethal.

The division one grand final will be played on Saturday, September 26, with the country division decider to be played a week earlier.

DIVISION ONE

HAHNDORF

2019 finish: 1st

2020 coach: Matt Golding

The Magpies are gunning for a third consecutive flag and it does not seem out of the question.

With former Adelaide Crows Matt Jaensch and Kyle Cheney still donning the black and white, Hahndorf is always going to be a tough proposition for opposition clubs.

David Hankin will join his brother Nick, coming from Imperials in the Sunraysia Football League across the border where he was one of the team’s best in last year’s grand final.

Fellow Sunraysia player Jarryn Male is another new Magpie.

The Magpies’ forward line will miss league leading goal kicker Darcy Hourigan who has transferred down the road to Nairne-Bremer.

Hopes of securing former Richmond ruckman Ivan Maric appear to have taken a hit, with Victoria’s latest COVID outbreak meaning any chance of him being able to cross the border freely look unlikely.

 

ONKA VALLEY

2019 finish: 2nd

2020 coach: Paul Tanner

A big part of Onka Valley’s recruiting in 2020 is focused on bringing its talented juniors home.

Case in point being talented Kersbrook midfielder Lachlan Peter.

Last year’s division two Mail Medallist is back at the club after joining Kersbrook to play with his brother, with the former Norwood and West Adelaide player a terrific pick-up.

John Greenslade has also crossed from Mt Barker and Haydn Gamma from Nairne-Bremer as the Bulldogs have kept a mostly stable list and should contend again this season.

 

MT BARKER

2019 finish: 3rd

2020 coach: Andrew Bruce

After crashing out of finals last season, the Roos will have a new-look side in 2020.

Coach Andrew Bruce has the task of lifting Mt Barker to its first premiership since 2012 and will be assisted by the recruitment of Damien Hynes and Will Schultz.

Hynes is a former Central District reserves player who comes to the Roos from RSMU in the North Eastern Football League.

Schultz will be a handy ruck/forward type, with the talented youngster joining the club from Kadina.

Tommy Scott returns to the club after a number of seasons away and former Port Magpies reserves player Ethan Bell is back after a year at Strathalbyn.

John Greenslade looms as a major loss after crossing to Onkas.

 

URAIDLA DISTRICTS

2019 finish: 4th

2020 coach: Michael Tudor

Uraidla could be a big slider in 2020 after losing a number of experienced players to retirement.

However, some new and younger faces could be just what the Demons need to rise back up the ladder.

Chris Clements, Travis Oakley and Kyle Sutton are among the club’s retirements, while Simon Ebert has crossed to Kersbrook after a year off.

Former Central District junior Matthew Slade will play for Uraidla after transferring from Adelaide Uni, while Mitcham’s Ben Jennings has also joined.

New coach Michael Tudor will have a good rapport with many of the players after rising from under 18 coach into the senior role.

 

BLACKWOOD

2019 finish: 5th

2020 coach: Ryan Anderson

Blackwood is always around the mark and this year should be no different.

Echunga gun Joel Aish is one of the club’s biggest recruits, with the star forward averaging close to 50 goals for the past three seasons.

Evan Johnson has crossed the border from the Sale City Football Club, while 2017 premiership player Jess Watchman is also back at the Woods.

The club has secured the return of Daniel Bennetts, but he will instead play for Ardrossan this season.

However, the Woods have lost few other players and will be hoping to improve on their first round exit of 2019.

 

ECHUNGA

2019 finish: 6th

2020 coach: Simon Quinn

With border restrictions in place, Tom Eichner, Bradley Hunter and Shane Maslin needed to find a club closer to home and landed at Echunga rather than their home club Torrens Valley.

After a couple of years at Jeparit-Rainbow in the Horsham District Football League, the trio will be a solid addition to the Demon line-up. Maslin appears to be the pick of the three.

Losing dangerous forward Joel Aish to rival team Blackwood will hurt, so the Demons will need to find another forward capable of kicking 40-plus goals.

With a little more depth, Echunga is certainly capable of challenging for a finals spot this year.

 

MT LOFTY

2019 finish: 7th

2020 coach: Scott Madsen

Reigning best and fairest winner Michael Pope will suit up for Jervois this season in a major blow to the Devils.

Hayden Kanisauskas (Brighton), Patrick Glynn (South Gambier) and Jack Sandercock (Ironbank) are also on the way out.

However, Dougal Grieve is back from Sturt, along with former Double Blue Jamie Drew, who has stepped up from division two club Bridgewater.

James Kittel-Neil also comes to Mt Lofty from CBC Old Collegians.

The club has had good numbers on the track since returning and will be confident of cracking the top five.

 

LOBETHAL

2019 finish: 8th

2020 coach: Matt Fuller

Lobethal has been through more than most South Australian clubs during 2020.

In addition to the COVID lockdown, the club and town also had to deal with the bushfires earlier in the year.

However, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, with the Tigers shaping up nicely with the recruitment of a pair of former AFL players

Fresh out of retirement, Norwood premiership player and former Melbourne player Alex Georgiou will line up for Lobethal.

Ex-Adelaide and Melbourne ball winner Aiden Riley is also Lobethal-bound, along with another Redleg flag winner in Brady Dawe.

Their arrival is reason for excitement for a team that has been starved of success for the past two decades.

 

NAIRNE-BREMER

2019 finish: 9th

2020 coach: Daniel Lackenby

The goal square will look a little different for Nairne-Bremer, with Hahndorf’s Darcy Hourigan giving Rams’ supporters reason for optimism.

With the best forward in the competition now wearing a Rams guernsey, we can expect a much more potent forward line.

Hourigan kicked 73 goals last year, while the Rams only booted 110 themselves.

Former Sturt reserves player Aiden Musolino has also come across from Hahndorf.

The Rams have also picked up former Sturt junior Darcy Clifford from Langhorne Creek and the Burgoyne brothers – Anthony, Caleb and Michael.

 

COUNTRY DIVISION

GUMERACHA

2019 finish: 1st

2020 coach: Rian Nelson

Key inclusions: Scott Mumford, Charlie Graeber, Steve Pollock

 

KERSBROOK

2019 finish: 2nd

2020 coach: Brett James

Key inclusions: Maris Olekalns, Simon Ebert, Jonathon Ross

 

IRONBANK-CHERRY GARDENS

2019 finish: 3rd

2020 coach: Stuart Wells

Key inclusions: James Stewart, Josh Rosman, Jack Sandercock

 

MACCLESFIELD

2019 finish: 4th

2020 coach: Denis Iljcesen

Key inclusions: Brad Growden, Luke Andruszkiewicz, Brad Thompson

 

BRIDGEWATER-CALLINGTON RAIDERS

2019 finish: 5th

2020 coach: Craig Bahnisch

Key inclusions: Adam Eckermann, Alistair Fleming, Tom Finn

 

BIRDWOOD

2019 finish: 6th

2020 coach: Andrew Loechel

Key inclusions: Justin Sheedy, Josh Sykes, Christian Elliott

 

KANGARILLA

2019 finish: 7th

2020 coach: Mark Griffiths

Key inclusions: Michael Ross, Aydan Bartlett, Brendan Hillier

 

MEADOWS

2019 finish: 8th

2020 coach: Scott Bailey

Key inclusions: Andrew Coombe, Gerard Dutton, Tom Eldredge

 

TORRENS VALLEY

2019 finish: 9th

2020 coach: Chad O’Sullivan

Key inclusions: n/a

 

DIVISION ONE DRAW

Rd 1 – July 4

Lobethal v Onka Valley; Echunga v Uraidla; Hahndorf v Mt Barker; Blackwood v Mt Lofty

Rd 2 – July 11

Onka Valley v Mt Barker; Nairne-Bremer v Mt Lofty; Blackwood v Hahndorf; Uraidla v Lobethal

Rd 3 – July 18

Lobethal v Blackwood; Mt Lofty v Hahndorf; Mt Barker v Echunga; Uraidla v Nairne-Bremer

Rd 4 – July 25

Onka Valley v Uraidla; Hahndorf v Lobethal; Mt Barker v Mt Lofty; Nairne-Bremer v Echunga

Rd 5 – August 1

Lobethal v Mt Barker; Echunga v Mt Lofty; Nairne-Bremer v Onka Valley; Uraidla v Blackwood

Rd 6 – August 8

Mt Lofty v Lobethal; Onka Valley v Echunga; Hahndorf v Uraidla; Blackwood v Nairne-Bremer

Rd 7 – August 15

Onka Valley v Blackwood; Echunga v Lobethal; Nairne-Bremer v Hahndorf; Uraidla v Mt Barker

Rd 8 – August 22

Mt Lofty v Uraidla; Hahndorf v Onka Valley; Mt Barker v Nairne-Bremer; Blackwood v Echunga

Rd 9 – August 29

Lobethal v Nairne-Bremer; Mt Lofty v Onka Valley; Echunga v Hahndorf; Mt Barker v Blackwood

 

QUALIFYING FINAL – September 5

ELIMINATION FINAL – September 6

SECOND SEMI-FINAL – September 12

FIRST SEMI-FINAL – September 13

PRELIMINARY FINAL – September 19

GRAND FINAL – September 26

 

COUNTRY DIVISION RAW

Rd 1 – July 4

Birdwood v Ironbank; Kangarilla v Raiders; Macclesfield v Meadows; Gumeracha v Kersbrook

Rd 2 – July 11

Raiders v Gumeracha; Kangarilla v Birdwood; Macclesfield v Torrens Valley; Ironbank v Kersbrook

Rd 3 – July 18

Kersbrook v Birdwood; Torrens Valley v Raiders; Meadows v Kangarilla; Ironbank v Macclesfield

Rd 4 – July 25

Raiders v Meadows; Kangarilla v Ironbank; Macclesfield v Kersbrook; Gumeracha v Torrens Valley

Rd 5 – August 1

Kersbrook v Kangarilla; Birdwood v Gumeracha; Meadows v Torrens Valley; Ironbank v Raiders

Rd 6 – August 8

Raiders v Kersbrook; Torrens Valley v Birdwood; Macclesfield v Gumeracha; Meadows v Ironbank

Rd 7 – August 15

Kersbrook v Meadows; Birdwood v Macclesfield; Torrens Valley v Ironbank; Gumeracha v Kangarilla

Rd 8 – August 22

Kersbrook v Torrens Valley; Birdwood v Raiders; Kangarilla v Macclesfield; Gumeracha v Meadows

Rd 9 – August 29

Raiders v Macclesfield; Torrens Valley v Kangarilla; Meadows v Birdwood; Ironbank v Gumeracha

 

SECOND SEMI-FINAL – September 5

FIRST SEMI-FINAL – September 6

PRELIMINARY FINAL – September 12

PRELIMINARY FINAL – September 13

GRAND FINAL – September 19