The 2016 NFL season kicks off in just two days, with Eltham and Greensborough squaring off in a Good Friday blockbuster at Eltham Central Park.
Much is expected of both sides in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 this year, following successful 2015 campaigns.
Eltham proved to be the surprise packet of the competition last year, progressing through to the preliminary final.
It was an historic year for the Panthers, who clinched their first Division 1 finals win since 1977 when they defeated Northcote Park in the first semi final.
The club’s midfield has been bolstered in the off-season with three-time best and fairest Gavan Connelly returning to form a strong midfield quartet with Bradyn Taglieri, Anton Woods and Billy Glasgow.
Speaking to NFL.org.au last month, Eltham coach Mario Bandera said his club was prepared for the added expectation this year.
“It’s good to have that expectation and the boys have responded really well to it,” he said.
“The group as it stands right now is the fittest of seen any senior group that I’ve been involved with.
“We’re not slipping under the radar anymore so we’ve got to be better at what we do well to go to the next level. People might well talk about us as a top four side now, which gives us that motivation to work that extra bit harder.”
After falling at the last hurdle in its quest for back-to-back premierships, Greensborough has also strengthened its squad as it looks to atone for last year’s grand final loss to Macleod.
The Boro have added former Carlton midfielder David Ellard and Coburg skipper Nick Carnell, while Northern Blues duo Jack Johnston and Matthew Haynes are back with the club full-time.
Greensborough coach Ben Turner said his club was itching for the 2016 season to commence, following a gruelling pre-season campaign.
“I reckon across the board we feel like we’re in a better position with our playing group heading into this year, just on the basis of fitness and just in terms of their attitude and application and all sort of things,” he said.
“I think everything just seems to be pointing in a really positive position and we just can’t wait to get out there and play in Round 1.
The Good Friday action commences with the under-19s at 9:40am, followed by the reserves at 11:55am and the seniors at 2:10pm.
Eltham Football Club advises that car parks will be at a premium in the ground itself. There is plenty of car parking space in the shopping centre, as well as Youth Rd at the back of railway station. All are within short walking distance to the ground.
You can listen to a live broadcast of the Good Friday clash between Eltham and Greensborough on 88.6 Plenty Valley FM, or stream it at www.nfl.org.au.