WHERE does one football season end and another begin? Whether clubs win or lose, the celebrations and post-mortems are quickly tempered by the need to regroup and focus on another campaign. For the recruiting committees of Central Murray league clubs Kerang, Koondrook/Barham and the Cohuna Kangas this has been a summer priority.
It was a busy and productive off season for the three southern clubs as they went about expanding and further developing their playing lists for the 2012 season. Despite not winning the major prize both Kerang and Koondrook/Barham made it through to the final month of the 2011 campaign and each has a genuine reason for optimism. For the Kangas, last year seemed like it would not end. It was a tough six months and the driving force over the summer was to restock and regroup. They are coming from a long way back but will look to improve on the handful of hard-fought victories secured in 2011.
Despite bowing out in the first week of September, the Raiders were the only team to fully extend eventual premiers Swan Hill during the finals series. They have searched far and wide to add to their depth and push for an even higher finish this year. The Blues have consolidated their list with the ins appearing to balance the outs.
Last season the Cohuna Kangas were exposed for depth when close to 40 players exited across the top four grades. On paper they appear to have gone a long way to rectifying this and have secured more than a dozen signatures, with a combination of returning players and new blood likely to provide the impetus they need to push for a top-five finish.
KOONDROOK/BARHAM: The many positives derived from the 2011 season should ensure the Raiders are again present in the month that matters. A very competitive and highly-skilled senior squad was well supported by a colts team that took out the flag. There was plenty of depth in the Raiders’ list last season and that should be the case again. They have however lost a couple of promising younger players, with Steve Knight, Marc O’Neill and Mitch Rankine moving on. Also leaving are Matt Gibson and Dylan Keam.
New players in the Raiders’ line-up will be Luke Brauer who has joined the club from Queensland. A former Ovens and Murray League and New South Wales representative, he will add further class to a formidable midfield. Also moving south from the sunshine state is Lucas Matthews. He is a Michelson Medallist from the powerful Bendigo league. Sam Chatfield, a key defender from the Farrer League, will add to height and strength in the back half, and former players Luke Fulton, Michael Sage and Dean “Billy” McGowan will provide options at both ends of the ground. Charlie Reaper, a former junior returns from the Top End. His height and athleticism will add further to the Raiders’ strengths at the stoppages.
There is plenty of enthusiasm and confidence in the Raiders’ camp and they can rightfully approach the new season with genuine hopes of a top-three finish. The Raiders will get a good idea of how well they have regrouped when they host reigning premiers Swan Hill in round one.
COHUNA KANGAS: In charge of the Kangas for 2012 will be Shannon Keam, an experienced campaigner and a premiership coach from Moama. He has a proven record and with a well-balanced squad at his disposal he can bring life back into a team that struggled for much of last season. The recruiting committee has assembled a strong goal-to-goal line-up and expectations are high.
From Moama in the Murray League are key defenders Brendan Jay and Luke Dunham, and rebounding defender Jade Keam. Steve Anson, a premiership ruckman will take over duties at the stoppages and James Scambler, who has played in the North-Central and Murray Leagues, will be a focal point up forward. He will be complemented by John McIntyre, a former Gippsland player. Also joining the club from Gippsland will be wingman-cum-on-baller Josh Martyn.
Former players adding depth to the list include Drew and Joel Bartram and Joel and Troy Woolhouse. With Tyson Bock returning after a stint interstate, there will be ample rotations for the match committee to ponder.
A very productive recruiting campaign was topped off with the return of Regan Williams, Damien Boyer and Josh Novoselek. All had a brief stint in the Golden Rivers league. The Kangas are waiting on the availability of Brett Collins, a quality mid-fielder who was an asset to the club last season.
On the flip side there a number of familiar names who will not wear the red, green and purple this year. The most notable absentee is Rick Easton. Also exiting are Rhys Bradley, Chris Bartlett, Chris Graham, Clark Fehring, Ben Archard and Troy Bickerton.
There is much to like about the Kangas. Most of the squad train together, which is a bonus, there is some depth in the playing list and following three hit-outs against Kangaroo Flat, Nathalia and Mitiamo they are primed to go.
The first challenge for the Kangas will be an away game against Tyntynder where they will play for the third annual Beyond Blue Cup.
Runners-up in 2011, Kerang was also quick to regroup. Replacements for quality operators Kris Bardon and Luke Cotchett had to be found and the departures of reliable youngsters Riley Hird, Andrew Kelly, Nathan Wilson, Jon Murphy and Jay McDonald meant there was an urgent need to top up the list.
The Blues had no hesitation in securing former players Troy Coates and Travis Matheson. Fresh from claiming the premier individual honour in the Top End, Coates is the ideal replacement for Bardon, while Matheson will give the Blues flexibility across half-back. A quality rebounding defender, he has added further to the height down the Blues’ spine. Justin Wilson has joined the Blues from the Nyah-Nyah West United Demons and will compliment the midfield of Spriggs, Coates, Dickson, and McGrath.
Others to put pen to paper include Daniel and David Cossar from Queensland, Cameron Moore and Tom Brownbridge from the Golden Rivers league, and former players Jordan Hayes, Richard Murray and Joel Osbrough.
The Blues may not have the depth of last season but a squad that includes Dickson, Grayling, Kelm, Kobi Wilson, Thamm, Booth, Coates and Matheson will ensure they will again be a force. Off the ground the Blues have also been busy. The verandah on the front of the club rooms has been sealed off, providing members with a quality front-row seat on match day and the netball courts have been subject to plenty of work. Pre-season matches were played against Strathfieldsaye and Cobram, the netball teams have been rejuvenated and invigorated, and all is in readiness. However, it will be a delayed start to the year for the Blues as they have a bye in the opening round.