Around the Grounds with Hilly – Round 1

Around the Grounds with Hilly – Round 1

31st March 2023

The 93rd Hampden Football Netball League season will get underway this weekend, and the excitement levels are high for this year’s competition. It only feels like yesterday when Koroit ran out victors in the Grand Final, claiming their 7th consecutive flag in windy conditions at the newly redeveloped Reid Oval. The off-season has been productive for all ten affiliates of the league and there is much intrigue on what will occur over the next 22 weeks.

Coaching Appointments

This season, we will welcome many new players, returning players and some fresh faces to the coaching fraternity. It would be fair to say, we have some of the most highly skilled and tactical coaches in Victoria, with names such as McLaren, Dowie, Battistello and Holt to name a few. In 2023, we will add more great teachers to our already outstanding group of coaches. We welcome Daniel O’Keefe, he will guide the fortunes of the Warrnambool Blues after spending the last few seasons as Carlton’s VFL coach and Dustin McCorkell returns to the league, this time swapping his navy blue colors to the purple and gold of Port Fairy. The intellectual property that Daniel will bring to the Blues will be outstanding whilst Dustin has already completed a power of work in recruiting players to ensure the Seagulls are once again competitive.Two outstanding football minds and no doubt everyone is excited to have them back in the Hampden League.

Changing Places

There has been some significant player movement over the pre-season, and there have been some great signings for a number of clubs. Some of the most notable recruitments include Cobden obtaining former players Brody Mahoney, Jack Hammond, Mark Marriott and Jesse Williamson this season. Port Fairy have secured the services of Jason Rowan as he approaches the 1000 goal mark and the league goal-kicking record. South Warrnambool have lured former Melbourne Demon Daniel Nicholson and ex-Rooster Jeremy Mugavin, two outstanding ball users. The reigning premiers midfield will be bolstered with James Gow and the Nagorcka brothers returning to Victoria Park. Terang Mortlake will add class to their midfield, with Lewis Taylor and Scott Carlin to feature this season, while North Warrnambool have added big power forward Nick Rodda to their line-up. Warrnambool and Camperdown have attracted players from the NTFL, some names to watch out for include Ryan Warfe (Warrnambool) and Aidan Dann (Camperdown). Hamilton and Portland will have a high reliance on their younger stars coming through the ranks, with both clubs boasting some exceptional talent.


In 2017, the Hampden Football Netball League pulled off one of the biggest coaching coups, with three-time Brisbane premiership forward Jonathan Brown committing to coach the Bottle Greens in interleague football. The journey brought excitement to interleague football once again and big JB enjoyed three wins from three games. Since Covid, interleague is an event that is only occurring between a few leagues and fortunately in 2023, the Hampden League will participate once again. Our young stars of the game will feature in an U23 clash with the Ballarat Football League in July, once again under the tutelage of Jonathan Brown at Mars Stadium. What a terrific opportunity for our young guns and hopefully someone might get the chance Cedric Cox and Jermaine Jones received after representing the Bottle Greens.

Hilly’s Predictions

It appears this season could be one of the most competitive we’ve seen for some time. Most clubs have recruited some top-end talent to enhance their chances. It has been documented that Koroit have lost some key personel and will have a few late starters in 2023, but they will again be right in the mix to continue on their premiership winnings ways. I believe much improvement will come from Cobden, Terang Mortlake and Port Fairy, whilst I expect Camperdown and Hamilton to win more games in 2023.

My Top 5

1. South Warrnambool

2. Koroit

3. North Warrnambool

4. Cobden

5. Warrnambool

Grand Finalists

South Warrnambool (Premiers)


Maskell Medal

My tip is Brody Mahoney from the Cobden Bombers. Brody is an outstanding ball winner, clever user and can caue havoc in the forward 50. Depending how many games Lewis Taylor plays, he will dominate the competition too. Lastly, keep a keen eye on South Warrnambool’s Jeremy Mugavin, a clever player whose fit and will be a hard match-up.

Leading Goalkicker

During the off-season we lost Sam Dobson and Tom Sharp, so the race is well and truly open for a new forward to make their mark. Will Kain is emerging, Jason Rowan is still going strong and Sam Gordon knows where the big sticks are. My tip is North Warrnambool big Nick Rodda.who kicked 57 goals in the Ballarat Football League last season. A big, strong forward who will be one hell of a tough match-up.

My Round 1 Tips

Cobden vs Koroit (HLL Match of the Day) – I firmly believe Cobden will shake a number of top sides this year, especially at home. It appears Koroit might be a little on during the early rounds, with key personnel set to return later on in the season. An intriguing clash, I think Cobden will break an 18 game losing streak against Koroit.

Port Fairy vs South Warrnambool – The Roosters will go in favourite but no one can underestimate the Seagulls in 2023. I think South Warrnambool will be too strong as they will be boasting an exceptional line up this season, and there is certainly a strong hunger from the group to go better this season.

Portland vs Warrnambool – It has been a tough off-season for Portland and coach Jarrod Holt losing some much quality form their 2022 side. It’s hard to see the young Tiger team upstage a more mature and experienced Blues outfit. 

Terang Mortlake vs Camperdown – Always a tough battle between the close town rivals. The Bloods finished 2022 on a strong note whilst Camperdown will be strengthened with the addition of some great players. I like the direction of the Bloods and in my mind they will just get the points.

North Warrnambool vs Hamilton – Be wary of the Hamilton Kangaroos. I see them playing a quick running brand of football this season, featuring some exceptional young talent. North Warrnambool will be contending again and I can’t wait to see how Nick Rodda settles in. I’m expecting a few goals this weekend from the big man. North Warrnambool will get the job done.

It promises to be one great season ahead. If you love your Hampden League Football, don’t forget to tune into Hampden league Live on 94.5 3YB FM each Saturday afternoon from midday for all the action.

See you at the footy


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