Lions new challenge

Spiros Amarantidis (Ljubica Vrankovic) 356247_23

Tara Murray

Deer Park is aiming to set the foundations as it takes on the challenge of the Essendon District Football League premier division for the first time.

Last season’s division 1 winners, the Lions get the biggest test in the EDFL in round one, facing reigning premiers Keilor.

New Lions coach Jamie Madigan said they were keen for the challenge.

“We’re excited to get the first game underway against Keilor,” he said. “It will be a big weekend.

“We went down and had a look at them [against Strathmore] and they were impressive and will be hard to beat.

“It’ll be a good indication of where we are at. We’ll have to do our homework.”

It’s been an interesting off season for the Lions, with a coaching change and a number of premiership stars on the move.

Lachlan Smart, Todd Elton, Tim Quick, Mark Nicholls, Nash Holmes and Wade Lees have all put in clearances to move to other clubs.

Madigan said Luke Goater and Bailey Morrish were trying out punting and they were uncertain what they would do.

On the other side, the Lions have added some key players into their squad.

The biggest name is former AFL player Majak Daw, who has come on board late in the pre-season. His brother Anthony Daw also joined the club and both are set to play in the same forward line.

“He is excited to play with his brother,” Madigan said. “He couldn’t commit to travelling with North Heidelberg all the time and things didn’t work out and he was really keen to play with us and we were happy to play for us.

“They’ll both play forward and he can pinch hit in the ruck or play centre half back. He can really be an x-factor for us.”

Madigan said a number of the new recruits and a couple of their players had really stood out in the pre-season.

“Jamieson House is from Launceston and I can’t wait to see him play,” he said. “He has had a fantastic pre-season so far.

“Jackson Barling is with us full time after being at the Northern Bullants last season. He is flying at the moment,

“Also Mason Crozier and Steven Georgiou… they will strengthen our defence and haven’t missed a training session,

“Tom Mundy, our reigning best and fairest winner, has been outstanding on the track and Spiros Amarantidis, our captain, has had a great pre-season.”

Amarantidis will miss the first two games through suspension following last year’s grand final.

Madigan said they haven’t set lofty goals for this season, it was about setting up the club for the future.

“We want to set the foundations and see where we are at,” he said. “There will be some ups and downs for sure.”

The Lions will host Keilor on Saturday. In other round one matches, Greenvale plays Avondale Heights, Airport West host Aberfeldie, East Keilor plays Strathmore and Essendon Doutta Stars play Pascoe Vale.