The draw has now been released for the 2020 Picola & District Football Netball season and will feature some tough match ups for the Deniliquin Rovers seniors squad.
After being knocked out in the preliminary finals in 2019 by Waaia, the Roos be looking to bounce back in a consolidated effort to go one round further this year.
However with other teams recruiting strongly in the off-season, Rovers playing-coach Alex Hay (pictured) said it will be a tough task for his side to make the grand final.
‘‘Hearing how teams like Strathmerton, Waaia, Katamatite and even Jerilderie and Mathoura have recruited, it’s going to be a fairly difficult season,’’ he said.
‘‘In my view, it will be one of the more difficult years to be competitive with the amount of talent from Ovens & Murray and the Goulburn Valley League that has come across to the Picola League.
‘‘I’m pretty bullish about our list though. Everyone is close and everyone is local, so there is a bit of camaraderie there.
‘‘It’s such a tight knit group at the moment and the commitment from everyone has been outstanding. We’ve had about 35 blokes already training (during the pre-Christmas period).’’
The Rovers will also have the tough task of filling the positions lost by two key players with the Kerr brothers, Dylan and Nathan, signing to play with Rumbalara this year.
The Roos are also likely to be without veteran forward turned defender Aaron Purcell and former AFL player Djaran Whyman.
‘‘I’m still yet to speak with Aaron and Jars (Whyman), so we will have to wait and see what their plans are,’’ Hay said.
‘‘My main focus was to keep the list from last year as full as I could and I have to say that so far we’ve had one of the best lead-ups to pre-season.
‘‘We are building the foundations to create a team that doesn’t rely on individuals. We’ll have blokes like Rhys Thommers and Jordan Treble who will see more senior footy this year.
‘‘We’ll also have Adam Bodey returning from his year away. He’s come back as fit as ever so he’ll be a big inclusion.
‘‘I’ll also look to get more senior game time into some of our young thirds talent like Raymond Murphy, Haydn Mowat, Will Martin and Tom Blake.
‘‘Over the last 10 to 15 years the club has probably snagged the most junior flags, but we just haven’t been able to transition that into senior footy, so hopefully exposing these young blokes to more senior footy will help us in the long run.
‘‘If everyone in the team has about a 10 per cent boost on their performance from last year then we can continue to build on our solid finish to the season.’’
It will be a tough start to the season for the Roos who will be playing Katamatite, who have recruited AFL player Sam Wright, in round one on April 4.
The Rovers will have the Easter break to plan ahead for a difficult round two and three when they face off against Picola United and Strathmerton.
The following fortnight will see Deni come up against Jerilderie and Mathoura, two teams expected to rise up the ladder swiftly in 2020.
The draw also sees the Rovers forced to play the first 12 rounds of the season before two bye rounds in a row.
‘‘Playing 12 games in a row is pretty difficult, but we’ll take that challenge head on,’’ Hay said.
‘‘When I played for Seymour in the Goulburn Valley League we had 14 games in a row before we had a bye, so I know what to expect.
‘‘We may have to manage some players throughout those first 12 weeks.
‘‘I’ve also had a big focus on having more of a professional take on recovery.
‘‘I’ve worked closely with senior footballer Caleb Pannell, who is a top quality physiotherapist, to make sure we can put together a strong recovery program.’’
The Rovers will be back on the track on Thursday, January 16 and will continue to train each Monday and Thursday.
Each training session will be held at Memorial Park at 6pm.
The Deniliquin Rovers’ Picola & District League Fixture for 2020 is as follows:
Round 1 (home) v Katamatite, Rd 2 (away) v Picola United; Rd 3 (a) v Strathmerton; Rd 4 (a) v Mathoura; Rd 5 (h) v Jerilderie; Rd 6 (h) v Katunga; Rd 7 (a) v Blighty; Rd 8 (h) v Berrigan; Rd 9 (a) v Rennie; Rd 10 (a) v Yarroweyah; Rd 11 (h) v Tocumwal; Rd 12 (a) v Waaia; Rd 13 BYE; Rd 14 BYE; Rd 15 (h) v Picola United; Rd 16 (h) v Strathmerton; Rd 17 (h) v Mathoura; Rd 18 (a) v Jerilderie.