Hoppers Crossing coach Steven Kretiuk has jokingly said his club should sit out pre-season practice matches next season.
For a second year running, the Warriors are counting the cost of a brutal practice match circuit which included season-ending injuries to Jordan Moody and Lachlan McDonald.
Moody went down with a third ACL and McDonald fractured a cheekbone that caused bleeding on the brain.
The Warriors will also be without Matthew Walson who is unavailable due to a change in work commitments.
“They’re great people to have around the club, so hopefully we can get them involved in some other way,” Kretiuk said.
Hoppers Crossing will have to put its new-found depth to the test as a result of the pre-season injuries.
The Warriors are better placed for cover this season because of the emergence of some of their homegrown players into the senior ranks.
“We’ve got a bit of depth now,” Kretiuk said.
“We’ve got some great kids coming through.
“This is the first year since I’ve been here that we’ve had more than one or two come up from the under-19s.
“We’ve got six or seven stepping up and no doubt a few of those will be playing senior footy.”
Hoppers Crossing will play the division 1 match of the round against Altona in the Western Region Football League’s opening day on Saturday.
Still fresh in the minds of both sets of players will be last season’s preliminary final epic, which the Warriors won by three points.
Irrespective of the opposition, Kretiuk said the opening round is always one to savour.
“It’s a big game no matter who you play,” he said.
Hoppers Crossing fans will get their first look at new recruit Brenton Payne.
Payne, a Western Jets graduate, has since been on St Kilda’s rookie list and played for Southport in the NEAFL competition.
The 22-year-old is seen as the missing piece to a fully functioning Warriors forward line.
“One area we were pretty light on was firepower in our forward line,” Kretiuk said.
“He’ll add a fair bit to us because we relied too much on [Jackson] Viola and a few guys who play forward.”
In other division 1 opening round fixtures, St Albans will travel to Point Cook, Sunshine has a tough away date with Spotswood, Albion will hit the road to face Werribee Districts and six-time defending premiers Deer Park will unfurl the flag against Caroline Springs.
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