The Western Magpies meet their old foe from SQAFA days when they travel to Dittmer Park to meet Mt Gravatt on Saturday afternoon in what shapes as an intriguing match.
The Vultures have come off an impressive pre-season campaign winning 2 matches and going down in a tight tussle to Labrador in the pre-season final.
The Pies have not hit their straps in the pre-season but have been largely experimental and will be keen to show their true strength on Saturday in the season proper.
Pre-season form largely goes out the window , especially as the Pies will include six players from NEAFL clubs with ex-Magpies Doug Lawrence (Aspley) and Aaron Maricic (Redlands) being joined by the Redlands contingent of Tyler Jones (midfield/half back), Jack Goodall (half back), Matt Sondergeld and the other Matt Thompson (not Clock) (both small forwards).
Lawrence will be a key inclusion for the Pies as they were a little under sized in the back half in the pre-season and Maricic gives the Pies plenty of run from a wing. Jones was good in his 2 matches for the Pies last year before being injured and Goodall and Sondergeld both donned the Black and White guernsey last year.
The Magpies will miss star recruit Brent Staker who still has a hamstring niggle but will bring in new players Nick Barling (ruck/forward) and Gareth Crawford (midfield). For this match Barling will start at CHF and Crawford on the bench as part of the midfield rotations.
Also returning from Queensland Under 18 duties will be young tall forward Sam Copland who will be a third marking option across half forward.
Lawrence will hold down CHB which he did with aplomb last year and will have strong support from Matt Davis and Tyler Jones. Davis had a break-out season last year and will be keen to repeat his stellar form.
Luke Scott is named at fullback and Luke Mitchell and Richard Wenham in the back pockets will provide run out of the back line, with one likely to have a shutdown role.
In the midfield 2014 Peirce medallist Ben Jaenke-Cain will provide his usual non stop display and with 2015 Grogan Medallist Cal Carseldine and Drew Mitchell top performers in 2015 the Pies have some solid ball winning ability. Add 2007 Peirce Medallist Tim McEvoy and new recruit Gareth Crawford, himself a multiple award winner in Victoria, the Pies have strong midfield depth. Wingers Brady Allen and Lachlan Woods are big bodied hard nuts who also add plenty of ball-winning ability and class to the midfield mix.
Dom Beer looks as fit as he has been for some years and will shoulder the ruck burden with Barling slotted into the key forward position.
Alex Dickfos was a close third in the QAFL Goalkicking last year and will again be a focal point up forward and may also have to help out in ruck at times.
Dual Peirce Medallist Val Pope will be a key player across half forward and last year kicked bags in both outings against the Vultures and will be keen to repeat this on Saturday.
The Pies team looks strong and coach Glenn Humphrey and his co-selectors had a difficult task at selection trying to fit 30 players into the final 22.
As is always the case the first game is a bit of an unknown especially with NEAFL top up players, but the Pies team looks very strong and will be keen to start the season with a win and justify some pundits' predictions of the Pies being the main challenger to Labrador this year.
Western Magpies vs Mt Gravatt Vultures - Dittmer Park on Saturday, April 2 @ 2pm
B: Luke Mitchell - Luke Scott - Richard Wenham
HB: Matt Davis - Doug Lawrence (A) - Tyler Jones (R)
C: Brady Allen - Ben Jeanke-Cain - Lachlan Woods (C)
HF: Sam Copland - Nick Barling - Val Pope
F: Matt Thomson (R) - Alex Dickfos - Matt Sondergeld (R)
Foll: Dom Beer - Cal Carseldine (C) - Drew Mitchell
Int: Tim McEvoy - Gareth Crawford - Aaron Maricic (R) - Jack Goodall (R)