Benalla Saints, Giants, United and Bulldogs football clubs have all started preseason training sessions, with eyes fixed on the first competitive matches in April.
After finishing in third place in the Goulburn Valley Football League last year, Saints head coach Luke Morgan has big expectations for this year.
‘‘In terms of expectations, we’re at a stage where we don’t want to have a ceiling on what we could do. We think we can head for finals, we made it last season ... if we can win 12 or 13 out of the 18 games, we should be in that position for finals,’’ he said.
Kyabram was last year’s champion in the Goulburn Valley Football League, followed by Rochester, with Benalla in third.
Meanwhile the Giants will be looking for back-to-back premierships, even with the struggles of an ever-changing squad.
Giants head coach Ben Watling said after winning the size of the league had grown, but he still feels another premiership could be on the cards.
‘‘It’s a pretty big competition now, there’s about six or seven teams from Wangaratta alone. The year before last we made the grand final and lost by a point. We had a completely different team last year but it was satisfying for the top age boys who had missed out before, to win.
‘‘The kids will always say ‘I want to win a premiership’, but for me I’m just going to try and develop them into the best players they can be,’’ Watling said.
Meanwhile, United head coach Mark Winzer said his under-18 side will be favourites to make the finals after a strong season last year. ‘‘We’ve been together for a year now. (Benalla United is) An amalgamation of two clubs, the All Blacks and Goorambat, so we’ve put together an under-18 team, and in the first year we made the preliminary finals.
‘‘This year we want to go one further. But because they’re 18, the numbers change over time and some players have moved to senior footy and some are away for school so it can be tough,’’ he said.
Bulldogs president Glen Davis also believes his club is headed for a strong season after falling agonisingly close to a grand final last year.
‘‘Our under-16 team just missed out on finals last year, so their goal would be to take one step further and make finals footy... They have the talent that can get the job done,’’ he said.