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PLACE PRE-SEASON PREVIEW - Pies shaping up well for 2016

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PLACE PRE-SEASON PREVIEW - Pies shaping up well for 2016

Andrew Thomson

The Western Magpies are well positioned to improve on their QAFL third place finish in 2015 with strong recruiting in the off season.

Coach Glenn Humphrey is very happy with his recruits and the development of several younger players. The Pies were disappointed in their finals performances last year and with several big name and strong bodied experienced recruits the Pies will again be looking at a top three finish to give themselves the best shot at a premiership. 

Joining the club will be ex West Coast and Brisbane Lion big man Brent Staker, ruckman Nick Barling, half back Ricky Dudley, midfielder Gareth Crawford and half back Reece Bridge.

Club legend Jimmy Rozynski has returned to the nest but has had a setback with a shoulder injury which will require surgery. JRoz remains hopeful of joining the fray in the business end of the season. 

Brent Staker brings a wealth of AFL experience to the team and his height, experience and mobility will be a big asset and he will likely start across half forward.

Nick Barling is a tall ruckman who can go forward and he came through the Geelong Falcons Under 18s before joining Southport for 3 years and then last year played at Ipswich after gaining a teaching job at Springfield. With Dom Beer putting in a big pre-season the Pies ruck department is looking very solid.

Ricky Dudley is a tough traditional half back flanker and his opponents will surely earn their kicks.  After relocating from country Victoria, Dudley played for the Woodsmen in 2015, having a very strong finals campaign.

Gareth Crawford is a strong bodied midfielder who has a string of B & F awards in major competitions in western Victoria and he will be a boost to an already strong Pies midfield, adding experience to a youthful lineup.

Reece Bridge is a 20 year old half back who could hold down a key defence position. He is agile with a leap and arrives from Cairns where he was a representative player last year.   

The Pies will also be strengthened with the return of classy midfielder Cory Hopkins and promising youngster David Lewis, both having a year off last year, and the return from a season ending injury last year of 2014 Rookie of the Year Mitchell Stallard. Rover Blake McClennan is also returning after a couple of years off to establish his business and he will add to the midfield mix.

Speedster Jake Heard has also put in a big preseason and will be fit after two injury-interrupted seasons. 

Another plus for the Pies is the decision of tough midfield leader Tim McEvoy to go around again and the classy Luke Scott will also play again after contemplating his future at the end of 2015.

Further good news is that key defender Chris Hunt is training strongly after pre-season surgery which looked like de-railing his 2016 season. He will have a delayed start to the season but is aiming to return by round 5 or 6.   

The Pies will look to up and coming Under 19 players Lachlan Dennis, Charlie Pursehouse and Jake Farrell to play senior football and will expect 17 year olds Sam Copland and Ryley Easton, already with a season of senior football under their belt, to build on their experience.

Dennis is a skilled half forward/winger, Pursehouse is a 194cm ruckman who is showing enormous promise and may play as a third tall up forward and Farrell is a strong bodied youngster who will play in the half forward rotations. 

2015 Grogan Medallist Callum Carseldine, 2014 William Pierce Medallist Ben Jaenke-Cain, Drew Mitchell and Lachlan Woods again form the nucleus of a strong midfield and with the new players into the mix the Pies will look to emulate last season where they were strong at the contest.

2015 William Pierce Medallist Val Pope also looks good and may play more deep forward this year and that makes him very dangerous for opposition defenders. 

Jaden Morton has had a good pre-season and with added fitness he may be the Pies answer at full-back. He knows the position well as he played there in the Magpies 2006 Premiership. 

Likewise Alex Dickfos is trimmer and fitter this year and he will form a dangerous key forward combination with Staker. Dickfos was third in the QAFL goal kicking in 2015 with 60 goals.  

Matt Davis had a standout season last year and with fellow half back Sean Mewing will again be key players in the Pies defence along with Luke Mitchell, who locked down well last year playing on key opposition small forwards and providing valuable rebound.

Brady Allen is also primed for a big year after a good pre-season and coach Glenn Humphrey is looking to up and coming youngsters who were knocking on the door last season in Joel Workman, Matt Mazarolle and Luke DeNys to take the next step to be regular senior players. 

Out for the Magpies in 2016 will be key defender/ruckman Hayden Thick (travel), goal sneak Matt Thompson (Canberra--work-- (Ainslie)), key forward Matt Garland (retired), half-back Ben Hooper (Tweed Heads--work), winger Sonny Aneet (Toowoomba) and may be without full-back Doug Lawrence (Aspley-NEAFL), Redlands-listed CHF Tom Michael  and winger Aaron Maricic (Redland--NEAFL) for many matches. All three will be available for the Pies if not selected for their NEAFL clubs.  

Another loss is 2015 JB Medal winner for Best and Fairest in the Reserves in midfielder Bryce Crossley who has crossed to Kenmore. Crossley provided depth for the Pies and will be missed. The return from Europe of Tom Ielasi is also on hold at this point.

The Pies start their season this Saturday, March 5th when they play Wilston-Grange at Callaghan Park, Zillmere in the QAFL Pre-season competition at 4.30 pm.

This match was scheduled for Chelmer but due to works on the Telstra tower encroaching on the playing surface the match has been relocated.