2023 GNFL season preview: A summer of change for Rovers as they look to go back-to-back

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
2020 J. J. Clune medallist Tom Denton returns to Rovers this season
Camera Icon2020 J. J. Clune medallist Tom Denton returns to Rovers this season Credit: SnapAction.com.au/Kate Box/Supplied

Rovers, the reining premiers, are looking to go back-to-back only three years after they achieved that feat in 2020 as Ian Comben and Farren Parfitt once again hope to lead their side to victory this season.

After defying history to become the first team this century to win the final after finishing outside the top two on the back of a six-game winning streak, Rovers will have to repeat their finals performance to extend it to seven as they face Brigades in a grand final rematch this weekend.

Comben has been impressed with what he’s seen so far in the preseason.

“In the five years I’ve been here it’s the best preseason I’ve been a part of this year with really good numbers at training,” he said.

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“It’s obviously a huge test first up Brigades have recruited well and it will give us a pretty quick idea of where we stand early on.”

However, the side that will take on the Hawks will look quite different from the one that won the flag last year with Rovers losing three top-end players.

“Joseph Ugle has gone to Kalgoorlie while Gabriel Parfitt has left for Wickham and Dwayne Nevill has committed to Subiaco so those are three really good players we had to let go,” he said.

“But on the other side, we’ve picked up Stuart Egan from Towns, Tom Denton returns after not playing for us for a couple of years and Trent Simpson has come across from Mullewa along with others.

“It will be a pretty different side from last year but I think there’s enough talent in the players we’ve picked up to cover who we’ve lost.”

There hasn’t been a change in the on-field leadership with Farren Parfitt staying on as captain with Chris Scott in support though Comben suggested a possible move to co-captaincy going forward.

The changes done this season will have an impact, with Comben acknowledging they can’t afford a mid-season slump like last year.

“Getting off to a good start will be hugely important and last year we had a poor run mid-season and nearly fell out of finals and we probably can’t afford to do that this year,” he said.

“The key thing for us this weekend will be getting the new guys to gel and get up to speed with our game style.”

“I think even though we’ve lost some really good players we should be able to challenge again this season and that’s been reflected in our good pre-season.”

Rovers will begin their 2023 campaign at their Greenough home at 2.30 pm on Saturday.

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