K rock Football

Early challenge for St Albans

St Albans co-coach Ben Patrick. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Al Packer)

FIRST-year St Albans coach Ben Patrick will get an early indication of how his club is tracking after drawing St Mary’s in the opening round of the 2021 season.

The highly-anticipated 2021 GFL fixture has been released, with the Supersaints getting the first crack at the 2019 premier.

“It probably doesn’t matter who we play first-up, it’s going to a challenge for us,” he said.

“We’re going to have a number of new faces, and with myself coming in as a new coach, we’ve been working on a lot of game education at the moment.

“It’s going to be a challenge to get the boys to adapt to that, and it’s going to take some time.

“But, St Mary’s will be a huge challenge for us, but we’re striving to improve, and it’s no better way to gauge our pre-season playing St Mary’s first-up.”

The clash with the Saints at The Gordon Oval starts a challenging opening month for the Supersaints, with trips to Bisinella Oval (Lara) and Burdoo Reserve (Grovedale) in rounds 2 and 3, before returning home for a meeting with finals candidate Bell Park.

“We’ll all be at the same stage, and all the lists will be as healthy as each other,” Patrick said.

“You’d like to think that we’ll get a better understanding as to where we’re at as a club, and our development moving forward, in the first month.

“We’ll reassess things after that first month and see where we go from there.”

In other Round 1 match-ups, Daniel Fraser will take charge of Grovedale for the first time in a clash with Bell Park at Burdoo Reserve, and key forward Mitch Day will make his first appearance for Lara since 2014 when the Cats host Geelong West.

St Joseph’s is the first club to travel to Colac, while the coachless North Shore has a meeting with South Barwon at Windsor Park.

The opening round concludes with the third-annual Pride Cup clash between Leopold, which will have Jason Tom in charge for the first time, and Newtown & Chilwell at Memorial Park.

In other fixture highlights:

  • St Mary’s will belatedly unfurl its 2019 premiership flag against Leopold at Anthony Costa Oval in Round 2.
  • Round 2 will also see Bell Park host Colac at Hamlyn Park, pitting Dragons recruit Wade McSparron against a Tigers line-up coached by his dad Rowan.
  • South Barwon and St Joseph’s will meet on Anzac Day at McDonald Reserve. It will be the 13th meeting between the two clubs on April 25.
  • All eyes will be on whether Wylie Buzza will be available for St Mary’s when it hosts arch-rival St Joseph’s in Round 4.
  • North Shore will become the second club after St Mary’s to feature in 800 GFL games when it hosts Bell Park in Round 6, with the Dragons becoming the third when it meets the Saints in Round 10.
  • 2019 grand finalists St Mary’s and Colac will do battle in Colac in Round 7, with a return match-up in Round 16.
  • South Barwon (Round 14 vs. Colac) and Lara (Round 17 @ South Barwon) will both reach the 600 GFL match milestone.

GEELONG West has been fixtured at home in rounds 2, 4, 6 and 7 before the end of May.

However, the Giants may not be able to play on West Oval until the Round 6 clash with Leopold or the Ron Sells Cup clash the following week against North Shore.

They are the potential matches to mark the opening of the $11m stage one redevelopment of the venue.

The only bye of the season falls on July 3 between rounds 11 and 12, with the finals to start on Saturday, August 28.

The 2021 GFL Grand Final is scheduled for Saturday, September 18.

Clubs have until January 23 to put requests for fixture alterations (night games, Sunday matches).

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL 2021 GFL FIXTURE

Twitter: @tom_king79