By Hayley Wildes
The Casey Demons fell agonisingly short of VFL glory last season and will be looking to go one step further in 2019.
In Jade Rawlings’ first season at the helm, Casey finished the home and away season second on the ladder with a game style based around a defensive mindset that withstood all sorts of challenges.
Unfortunately, on the biggest day of the season, the Demons dished up a second half to forget and lost the grand final to Box Hill by 10 points, 10.12 (72) to 8.14 (62).
Despite the heartbreaking end, it was a positive season for Casey, who notched up an equal-league best 14 home and away season wins and a further two wins in the finals.
As with many VFL clubs, the winds of change came through over the off-season and Casey has added some exciting youngsters to their ranks, while their top-three 2018 best and fairest finishers have all moved on, but two may still figure prominently this season.
Corey Wagner and Jay Lockhart were one and two in the best and fairest and duly rewarded with positions on Melbourne’s AFL list. With a strong list and plenty of competition for spots in Melbourne’s line-up week-to-week, Wagner and Lockhart will most likely play VFL games throughout the season.
Third in Casey’s 2018 best and fairest was Cameron Pedersen, who starred for the Demons in a utility role. He has signed on with Phillip Island in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition for season 2019 and looks set to dominate that league.
Furthermore, the likes of Dean Kent and Dom Tyson – who were Melbourne-listed last season and played many games for Casey – have found new homes at St Kilda and North Melbourne, respectively.
Whilst those players will be missed, exciting former TAC Cup (now NAB League) stars have signed on with Casey. Former Dandenong Stingrays’ Matthew Gahan, Jai Taylor and Heath Briggs proved themselves at TAC Cup level, with Gahan playing a vital role off half back and Taylor starring in the middle and up forward in the Rays’ 2018 premiership run.
As with any AFL-affiliated VFL club, Casey will most likely see many changes throughout the season and the make-up of the team each week will depend heavily on what is happening with Melbourne in the AFL.
Casey’s season gets underway on Sunday at Box Hill City Oval in a grand final re-match. The match kicks off at 11:40am and the Demons will certainly be out for revenge.
There’s no doubt that Casey boasts a strong list and with another preseason to learn and practice Rawlings’ game style, they look set for another strong season.