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13 February 2020
By DEAN LAWSON
As football clubs start shoring up plans for an approaching Horsham District football season there is plenty to suggest Rupanyup fans will have opportunities to celebrate this year.
The Panthers have been among the busiest and most successful of clubs in the league in securing new talent and expectations on the banks of Dunmunkle Creek are high.
Playing coach Jack Musgrove had few hesitations in declaring his excitement in his team’s prospects this year as he rattled off a list of highly credentialled recruits pencilled in for 2020.
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“It’s been a pretty big off-season, which was just what we needed and we’ll see not only improvements on the ground but a big revamp of the club, which is having a red-hot crack. It’s really exciting times,” he said.
Injuries crippled an already lean Rupanyup player list last year and efforts to establish new levels in depth looms as a potential panacea for the Panthers.
“We’ve worked really hard on getting a few blokes and have picked up some high-quality talent. We’re really looking forward to seeing them in the red and blue,” Musgrove said.
“We haven’t played finals for a long time and while we understand we’re coming from a long way back and must take it step by step, playing finals is the goal for the season.”
The Rupanyup ‘in’ list appears impressive with a collection of seasoned Darwin players joining regional talent and favourite sons either joining or returning to club.
The group includes a variety of players likely to slip into key midfield, key-position and running roles.
North Central league Feeny Medal best and fairest and ruckman Mitch Gleeson from Charlton and Northern Territory premiership star Shannon Rioli, part of a St Marys club dynasty in the top-end and a household name in Darwin football, top the newcomer list.
Rioli’s St Marys team-mate and centre-half forward Leroy Larson is also on his way to the Panthers’ den, along with Musgrove’s brother and wingman Mitch.
Musgrove also confirmed former Brisbane Lions draftee Matt Tyler would be back and Brett Niewand was returning from Townsville.
Jimmy McMurtrie, another Darwin player and brother of Hugh, has also signed on for a full season.
Musgrove said the influx of quality players, apart from lifting the potential for success, would help generate confidence and much-needed competition within the Panthers’ playing group. “All these imports will place a lot of pressure on players to perform and that type of competition breeds success. We haven’t had competition for spots in the team for a long time and it was something I wanted to bring in this season,” he said.
“It will also help relieve some pressure at the other end, reducing a need to scratch a twos team together and allow some players an opportunity to step back a bit.
“Some of the new blokes coming in have played a lot of footy together with St Marys and should fit straight in.”
Musgrove added the influx of players, which also included Chris Schaper returning from Swifts, would lead to the team playing a completely different style.
“An early focus will be for the team to gel and everyone to play to a similar game plan. Having imported talent will change the way we play,” he said.
Musgrove was also far from concerned many of the imports would join the Panthers in March, missing much of the club’s pre-season.
He said Darwin players in particular would be looking for a ‘second wind’ after playing in the Northern Territory season and their arrival would add momentum to the build-up.
“We have good numbers at training and everyone is up and about,” he said.
“We’ve recruited a lot of blokes who can’t make training but everyone is excited and the key is to knuckle down, work hard and make sure we’re fit and ready to go.”
Musgrove also said Rupanyup’s oval was in the best condition he had seen and new floodlights would be ‘huge’ for the training group.
Musgrove, in his third year at the helm, almost rates as a recruit himself.
He missed much of last year with a serious knee injury and punctured lung.
“It’s been a pretty tough run the last couple of years. But I haven’t gone back up to Darwin to play this time and my body’s the best its felt for a long time,” he said.
Rupanyup’s pre-season training sessions are at 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and the club is organising pre-season matches.
Seniors: Jack Musgrove
Reserves: Aaron Matthews, Cam Taylor
The entire February 12, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!