THE CHALLENGES OF '17

Season 2017 presents many challenges for Old Xaverians, not least of which will be the defence of the LA Adamson Cup, snatched by the Red 'n' Blacks on that tense Sunday afternoon last September.

It's a hard thing to go back-to-back. Collegians did in 2011/12, and Xavs in 2009/10, but nobody has since gone close. Indeed, it is a feat to reach the finals the year after winning a flag. We've seen St Bernard's go from the dais to the dumpster in a season, the Lions nearly go to Premier B after their back-to-back effort, Blacks finish fifth after their first Premier flag in 40 years, and Xavs fall in a hole in 2014.

Compared with the mass of summer signings prior to last season, the Xavs have been reasonably quiet on the recruiting front.

Star Big V players Chris Waller and Murphy Ambrose are back, while Tyler Scarce from the NFL and Jayke Barrack from the country have come under some notice in the pre-season. Sam Lees and Charlie Woodley return from long-term injuries, while  Jarryd Skene and Luke Barry are back too.

Thankfully, there is plenty of depth, with a strong Reserves lineup topped up with a host of graduated U19 players pushing hard for higher honours.

Perhaps most importantly, the nucleus of last year's senior team will return, with 21 of the 22 from Grand Final Day saddling up again. 

Will it be enough? As always, we will have to wait and see.

Coach JAMES MCDONALD

Coach JAMES MCDONALD

St Kevin's have scoured the AFL scene and picked up some handy names, Uni Blues have recruited hard and Collegians have a number of Wesley alumni returning from the VFL. De La Salle will be improved, and then there is Old Trinity, beaten in successive grand finals it hoped to win.

And no-one is writing off the chances of Old Melburnians, Uni Blacks, Beaumaris and St Bede's/Mentone Tigers either.

NEW ASSISTANTS BAIRD AND HOLLAND

NEW ASSISTANTS BAIRD AND HOLLAND

Premier section will be a struggle every week. We know only that the Old Xaverians will be doing their best to execute the plans of new senior coach James McDonald. He'll be backed on the bench by former North Melbourne and Port Melbourne star, XC alumnus John Baird, former Richmond and Melbourne tall Ben Holland and seven-time OX premiership legend, Tim Ockleshaw.

Reserves mentor Murray Browne will have fewer seasoned veterans to call on, with a number of retirements, but the youth push should pay dividends. Whether the success comes immediately, or later, is yet to be seen.

Paddy Myers takes sole control of the Thirds and Shane Healy is still the only coach the U23s have ever had. Both squads should again produce strongly, though it is a pity that the possibility of another internecine grand final remains a possibility. Still, with other clubs lacking the depth to field competitive teams in lower sections, the chance to play a better standard, and sometimes to play at all, is a worthwhile trade-off.

Sam Shaw returns from Adelaide's AFL list to take charge of an U19 squad and with another large group pushing through from Barkers Road, has the chance to make his mark. Pat Allan takes the U19 Reserves after retiring, and both Shaw and Allan have the good fortune to be backed by former AFL great Barry Mitchell and longtime U19 Driector Brendan O'Sullivan.

Chizzy Nolan is back with the Crocs, determined to take them back to grand final day, which in the past has been a Green Hose holiday. But that was then, this is now.

Then there are the women. For the first time, our ladies will be competing on the park. The much-heralded Rohenna Young is our inaugural coach and she and her coterie have done an outstanding job in preparing our women for the season.

Off the field, the task of raising funds remains a priority. The cost of running the club is enormous, and player subscriptions, sponsorships and memberships cover only part of the outlay. President Bill Denton and his committee will be looking to up the ante on social events, and the club has begun that task with a successful football season launch held in March at the Crown Palladium. 

Eight teams, seven premierships up for grabs and a lot of work to be done.

Who said it was easy being an Old Xav?