Season 2012 Preview: Eagles, Demons
With less than seven days to go before the opening round of the 2012 OAFL season, we bring you yet another "preview" installment. This one is dedicated to the Toronto Eagles and High Park Demons. Both teams rounded off the top four last year; Demons finished with 10 wins and Eagles nine. One became runners-up against the Roos in the 2011 Grand Final, the latter lost to the Roos by 54 points in the Preliminary Final. Fair to say, both will want to rectify that in 2012.
Toronto Eagles have been keeping busy off the field with regular hockey games during the winter months. They officially started pre-season in February with indoor skills sessions at the Brampton Soccer Centre. They commenced outdoor training two nights a week after Easter, along with core and conditioning sessions at a gym in Etobicoke.This season though sees some major departures in Australian player-stock. Say goodbye to the 2009 AFL Ontario MVP, Ajit Alister who had returned home to Australia and playing for South-East Melbourne bayside club Chelsea. Australians Dave Starr and Mick Conroy have also returned home. Some good news though: the Eagles Canadian contingent have all returned this season. And, it's a big welcome back to veteran Troy Marsh who returns after heading home shortly after the 2009 season. He played for South Bunbury during his time in Western Australia. Most of the new recruits this year at the Eagles hail from Gaelic and rugby backgrounds. And the whisper is, there will be a few new Australian recruits joining the squad in the next few months to help cover the loss of their departured players.
Last Year: 4th
2012 Prediction: Fourth-Eighth
What we say: The Eagles have been a stellar side since 2006. And, even before then, in the early 2000s, they won flags and made finals with a great batch of Canadians. Hats off to them, too. Most of their flags were won with a predominately Canadian squad, which is rare. But, like most good rides, it must come to an end. Most of the Canadians that were racing around the ground for the last decade -- playing in finals and winning flags -- are veterans now. Even with the injection of new Canadian blood, it takes time to build another great team. Last year cracks started to appear in their armour. At their very best, they will play finals this year. Throw some long term injuries in the mix and their path to a flag becomes harder with a veteran list. They still have a team that has great players, but can they keep up with the hungry and young teams like the Demons, Wildcats, Gargoyles and of course last year's premiers, the Roos? I guess we'll know by August.
High Park Demons
The Dees kicked off bi-weekly player training on Jan.29 and even held joint sessions with the Rebels. Evening sessions were added Thursdays for March and April, with a few a sessions at Downsview Hangar. Ash Martin said numbers have been reasonable, (20-35 every session) and the development of young Canadians has been "amazing". "The club is excited about the spike in social functions so far this year," he said. "While there is plenty of work still to be done, the club is growing anxious for round one for our first test." Four new Canadians look likely to start in round one against the 2012 Premiers and two new Australians (a ruckman and key defender) also look set to add to the list of Australians the Demons have brought in, in the past 12 months. Departing the Dees, Canadians, "TTC" Tyler (has moved to Australia), former league Best and Fairest Rob Valance, Kevin Toner and Aaron Jibb (overseas), while for the Australians, Hayden Walters, Ash Martin and veteran Adam Fraser won't be seen in 2012.
Last Year: 3rd
2012 Prediction: Anywhere from fourth to second.
What we say: The High Park Demons have come a long way in recent years. Only a handful of seasons ago, the club was not in good shape; they had low numbers each week and it didn't look good. Enter Marty Walter and his player injection program and the Dees now have a great young list that oozes talent and potential. While their young Aussies can run all day, just how good are their Canadian players? Probably just as good as the Aussies, with Marty Walter at the helm. The young Dees battled bravely against the Roos in last year's Grand Final loss by 50 points, but just couldn't put their best footy together on the day. They have youth and skill on their side, but do they have the experience and strength needed to go all the way in 2012?