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IN: Brendan Fevola (Yarrawonga), James Kennedy (Finley), Richard Malone, Brandon Mathews (Wodonga Raiders), Daniel Moysey (Cobden), Lance Poka and Trevor Richards (Yenda RL), James Taylor (Yoogali S.C.).
OUT: Tom Buckley, Jethro Calma-Holt (North Albury), Dylan Cudmore (Bright), Rick Daniher, Matthew Griffin, Andrew Hawkins (Finley), Tom Miller (Rosebud), Matthew Noonan (Wagga Tigers), Brett Owen; Brendan Fevola (Monbulk).
FEV SET TO SWAN INTO RFL – By Scott Hazlewood
FORMER AFL star Brendan Fevola is poised to play a one-off showpiece game for the Griffith Swans early next Riverina Football League season. The deal, which is currently in an advanced stage, would see the former Coleman Medallist pull on the red and white within three rounds of the competition. However, The Area News has learned a “wildcard” could be played, with Fevola understood to be on the radar of at least one AFL club ahead of the national draft. If the 31-year-old is selected to resume his AFL career it would scuttle Swans’ officials dreams of having the high-profile forward gracing the Exies Oval. However, Griffith (out-going) president George Duncan was confident they would land their man saying it could be a shot in the arm for the club and the game. “That’s part of the reason of doing this to promote the game and try to get other people in to support the club, not just Aussie Rules people,” Duncan said. “We’re battling with other codes, but hopefully people will want to come and see this guy because he has been to the top.” Club legend Bob Spears was the catalyst for the move, reaching out to Fevola’s people six weeks before the end of the RFL season. However, the matter of Fevola’s appearance fee had to be settled with Duncan saying the club covered itself just in case the spearhead is unable to take his place in the side, with a refund clause written into the contract.
The 2013 RFL draw is yet to be finalised, but Duncan said the club will do everything in its power to maximise the marketing potential of the showdown. “We’re going to try and play the game on Sunday, so hopefully we can be only Aussie Rules game in the RFL on that day,” Duncan said. “So we’re looking to draw people as well from the Northern Riverina Football League to come to town to watch the game and the western half of the Riverina and even to Wagga. “Because Leeton and Griffith always have good crowds, and hopefully if both teams can win their first game they can come here unbeaton, and having Fevola in the side it’ll bring people from all over.” Despite his well-publicised history of off-field behaviour, Fevola was a model clubman at the Yarrawonga Pigeons, who he helped to an Ovens and Murray flag this year. “The reports we’ve heard that he was good with the juniors down there and after they won the grand final, he actually went back to the club a week later for their end of season break-up, which is a good sign,” Duncan said. (The Area News, Wednesday October 24, 2012).
NEW FACE OF SPORTS DESK
BROADENING the number of sports covered and celebrating the success of our younger stars are at the top of the priority list for the incoming The Area News sports editor Vince Rugari. Rugari, 22, last week replaced outgoing sports editor Scott Hazlewood, who after more than five years in the chair has embarked on a round-the- world trip. A self confessed sports tragic, Rugari has played competitive cricket, AFL, basketball and football, and also tasted success as a university football coach. Rugari was born in Adelaide, but has spent the past six years on the Gold Coast, competing a journalism degree at Bond University before a one-year stint in the media department of former A-League franchise, Gold Coast United. He has been a freelance writer for leading website Sportal for close to three years, covering some of the biggest sporting events in the nation, including Test matches, a State of Origin decider and two A-League grand finals. He is a regular columnist with The Roar.com.au and a contributor to Goal.com – but it’s grassroots sport where his passion lies. “I’m excited about the challenge of covering sport in the city where football, AFL, rugby league and netball are all major winter codes.” Rugari said. “Sport is the bedrock of regional areas like this and it’s a privilege to be able to tell the stories and celebrate the achievements of locals. “I want to reflect what’s happening out here in the sporting community, rather that dictate what I think is important.” (The Area News, Friday December 14, 2012).
DATE WITH FEV A CARROT FOR SWANS - By Vince Rugari
NEWLY appointed Griffith Swans coach Guy Orton has two carrots ready to dangle if his men need a bit of extra motivation to get through a gruelling new pre-season regime. The first is the opportunity for redemption after missing out on the finals by percentage once again this season – only for fifth-place Narrandera to win the grand final. The second is a chance to play alongside Brendan Fevola in his one-off appearance in Swans colours early next year. “From the first training we had a few weeks ago I said that the guys that are here and keen and working hard in the pre-season will play with Fev,” Orton said. “If the senior guys think they can just rock up late and roll into the side, it’s not going to happen. “There’s a nice buzz around the club at the moment and it’s going to be a great experience for everyone.” But top of the agenda for Orton, who will steer the club next year alongside assistant coach Michael Duncan, reserves coach Greg Dreyer and under 17s boss Damien Scott, is premiership glory. “We weren’t that far off it at all last season,” he insists. “The last couple of years we’ve missed out on the top five by percentage and it’s been heart breaking. “We’ve mixed things up this pre-season with a few little changes and a fitness coach we’ve brought in, so we’ll be really to go again for what will be another pretty tight competition.”
Meanwhile, the Swans will not be left out of pocket as a result of a merger of the under 17s divisions from the Riverina Fooball League and the Farrer League. The unification was approved by clubs at AFL Riverina’s annual general meeting on Monday night in Wagga and will take effect from 2013 onwards. It means Griffith will now have to travel to North Wagga and Temora – the only two Farrer clubs with underage sides – as part of the new-look competition. AFL Riverina football operations manager Shane Buchanan conceded this could result in an unavoidable stretch on resources with senior and junior teams likely to be asked to play in different towns on the same day. “What we’re asking is that the clubs go into this with an open mind and try to help each other out,’’ Buchanan said. To Griffith’s credit they travel week-in, week-out and don’t whinge or complain about it.” (The Area News, Friday December 14, 2012).
SWANS GAIN IRISH LUCK – By Vince Rugari
THE Irish experiment has hit Griffith. For decades, AFL clubs have traded Gaelic football and transformed amateur sportsman like Jim Stynes, Tadhg Kennelly and Parce Hanley into professional stars. Now the Griffith Swans will get a crack at this style of code conversion, with a keen bunch of Irish backpackers hoping to play in the Riverina Football League this year. “One guy, Ethan Murphy, is 6’5’’ and has played a fair bit of Gaelic football. He plays as a forward, as one of the main goalkickers,” coach Guy Orton said. “These guys are pretty set on playing. They’ve been to quite a lot of training sessions already. “When you haven’t played the game before, obviously we’ve got to show them the ropes but if you end up being good enough for a senior spot, then they’re good enough.” The first thing the foreigners must come to grips with is the weather, with Griffith’s relentless summer heat clearly a world away from the chill of an Irish winter. “I was talking to Ethan after the first training and he said when they train, it’s cold as,” Orton said. “Then they’ve got to get used to the shape of the ball, obviously. “Last night after we finished I took a couple of the boys aside and were trying to teach them how to kick the footy properly, which is what they need. “Later on in the year we’ll know how they’ll adapt to the physical side of the game with our tackling drills but I don’t think they’ll be scared at all.”
But the Irish invasion hasn’t been the only source of fresh faces at Swans pre-season training. Basketballers Steven McCanna, Dean Spratt and Todd Howard have all followed former Demons boss and new fitness coach Andrew Cullen to the Swans. Obviously Andrew’s a bit of a draw card for them, but last year they said they were all keen to play,” Orton said.
Aside from the code swappers, the Swans have finally locked in a handful of new recruits with genuine footy experience. Midfielder James Kennedy and key position player Richard Malone have both moved to Griffith for work reasons after last year playing for Finley in the Murray League. ‘It’s a pretty strong comp they’re coming from so they’ll be handy players for us, Orton said. “James is pretty wiry but quick and has some good skills on him, and Richard’s a big guy with a good st of hands. Hopefully we can use them around the ground.
The others are Dan Moysey, Bart Mackay and Thomas Smith, a former junior returning to the club. “They’re all training well and fitting in nicely,” Orton said. (The Area News, January 25, 2013).
NEW RECRUITS LIFT SWANS – By Vince Rugari
A NEW wave of code-hoppers will get their first taste of action for the Griffith Swans tomorrow afternoon in the club’s first pre-season practice match. Ex-Yenda Bleheelers pack leader Lance Poka and former Yoogali SC player James Taylor are both set to feature alongside the Swans Irish contingent against the visiting Overs and Murray outfit Corowa-Rutherglen, who are coached by former Griffith lad Adrian Pavese. Griffith coach Guy Orton sees the scratch match as an ideal opportunity to find out exactly where his new-look side is ahead of the start of the Riverina Football League season next month. “We won’t have a full-strength side but it’s a good chance to not worry about structure or anything like that and see how we go,” he said. “The new guys, we’ll throw them around in a few positions and see how comfortable they are with the game and where there best spot on the field might be.” Poka, long considered one of the most fearsome forwards in Group 20, might be the pick of the bunch. Having traded his rugby league jersey alongside fellow Blueheeler stalwart Trevor Richards at the end of last season, there’s is no denying Poka’s imposing physical presence no matter what sport. “We put him in a defensive jumper the other night at training in one of our drill and the boys didn’t want to run near him,” Orton said. “Lance has been training really, really well. He’s pretty determined to play seniors through the year. “I don’t think Trev (Richards) will be out there this weekend but Poks will have a run – he needs to get familiar with the rules and all that stuff over the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, James Taylor has swapped the round ball for the Sherrin, and Orton said the YSC gun was also keen to play first grade. “We’ll see how he goes and if he likes it, he stick around, He’s looking good too,” he said. Orton is also excited about Irishman Niall McGovern’s first run. “He played Gaelic football back home at a level that was pretty much state-level and he’s picked up our game really, really well,” he said. “He’ll get a start. He’s fit so even if we gave him a tagging role he could run all day.” (The Area News, Friday March 1, 2013).
AT THE BAR with Vinnie and Speedy
He came, he saw, he conquered. But Brendan Fevola’s seven-goal effort wasn’t quite good enough for the Griffith Swans, who fell in an after-the-siren heart-breaker to rivals Leeton-Whitton on Sunday. The underdone former AFL star kept up his end of the bargain, keeping the turnstiles ticking over and presenting time and time again in the forward 50. If it wasn’t for the Swans disastrous first quarter, which gave the Crows an insurmountable 39-point head start, he might have gone back to Yarrawonga a winner. Delving into it all for this week’s At The Bar are Michael “Speed” Stratton and The Area News sports editor, Vince Rugari.
Vinnie: That was my first RFL game and I was really impressed with the standard. Quality game, stiff result. But you couldn’t have asked much more of Fev.
Speedy: It’s easy enough to say he could have won the game when he missed a couple that he probably should have. But he can certainly roost a ball. He hasn’t slipped that much. The midfielders could have presented him with more of it, but that’s only my opinion and it could be wrong.
Vinnie: I’m with you. Once they started putting it on his head instead of just in front of him, Fev started taking marks and kicking goals. There were a couple of quality one-handed grabs, which is what people came to see.
Speedy: Unfortunately, they only got tipped in the last 30 seconds. But having seen this side compared to last year, I am absolutely positive – barring injury – that they’ll make the finals, no risk.
Vinnie: Really? They’re that much improved?
Speedy: That’s what I reckon. I really believe they can make it through. I know it’s a big call and it’s early in the season but that’s how I feel. They might even go top three.
Vinnie: They should have won for sure, I know that much. Hopefully it doesn’t cost them the finals.
Speedy: That’s the bottom line. I’m not taking anything away from Leeton-Whitton, who refused to give up and just hung around, but that was Griffith’s game.
Vinnie: He had knee surgery a month ago, Fev. And he kicked 9.11 the day before for Yarrawonga. He’s never been a specimen of an athlete but he was a long way from 100 per cent fit, and he still got seven goals – in a side he knew nothing about against a mob he’d never heard of before, and all the focus was on him. It was a great effort considering.
Speedy: He’s got that uncanny ability to know when to sit back and let the other blokes do all the hard work. I had that. It was a good weekend for the town and for the club. The result wouldn’t have pleased coach Guy Orton but I think he’d be happy with everything else. They should do this again with big players. I think it’s come to the stage where Griffith, if the committee sat down and picked the right guy, could have one every year – provided they can cover costs. (The Area News, Wednesday April 24, 2013).
GRIFFITH WELL REPRESENTED IN RFL REP SQUAD – By Melody Montague
A 16 year old is among six Griffith players selected for the Riverina Football League representative squad released on Friday night. The 44-man squad will undergo three training sessions before it is culled to 22 players for the match against Sydney under 23s in Wagga on June 9. Griffith veterans Guy Orton and Mick Duncan have been named in the initial squad, alongside Richard Malone, Tim Matheson and in-form forward James Toscan. Lightning fast 16-year old Daniel Peruzzi was a surprise inclusion, joining five other youthful faces in the side.
Orton, who captained the rep side last year, was pleased but not surprised to see such a bold showing from the Swans. “Mick Duncan is always going to get a start in the rep side, for the newer guys, it’s good for their confidence and it’s good for them to have the opportunity to step up,” Orton said. “There’s are a lot of good forwards in the league so it is good to see James Toscan’s name up there; and Tim (Matheson) is playing some really good football at the moment. “He has got himself really fit and has been showing off some good skills.” Orton wasn’t where to place Malone in the Swans side this year, starting him as a forward but finding his skills better suited to the back line. He has been selected as a back in the RFL side. The Swans coach believed Peruzzi had been named in the side because of his speed. “Nobody quite knows what to expect when he’s on the field,’ Orton said. “He’s so quick; he just turns players inside out.” The Area News, Monday May 20, 2013)..
RICHARDS GOES FROM DOGHOUSE TO SWANS’ NEST - By Vince Rugari
WHOEVER said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks clearly haven’t met Trevor Richards. The Yenda Bluheeler legend may have called time on his rugby league career at the end of last season, but he has found a new lease of life since swapping the Steeden for the Sherrin and joining the Griffith Swans. The former prop, who turned 40 at the start of the year, only switched codes to keep fit and never had any intention of playing first-grade football. But the Swans injury crisis and familiarity with the game, following his Australian rules flirtation in his junior years – has seen him quickly become one of the club’s most important players this season.
Richards has kicked eight goals in six games for Griffith’s RFL side and has only been held scoreless once. And despite his advancing years, he has every intention of playing on next season- so long as his body lets him. “I had no plans at all. It was just a case of wanting to stay fit,” he said. “After running around and training for the last 30 years, to give it up cold...if I kept eating and drinking, I’d end up the size of a house. “Part of it was that I wanted to test myself as well, to see if I could still do it. “But once the injuries started to pile up, Guy Orton asked me if I wanted to play in the ones. I said if you need me, I’ll do what you want me to.”
Richards’ presence up forward has been a godsend for the struggling Swans, given a host of key experienced players have been struck down by the club’s ongoing injury curse. It has given him an opportunity to revisit a code in which many of his closest friends still say he could have dominated had he not opted to give it up in favour of rugby league as a 19-year-old. He went on to become one of Yenda’s all-time greatest players and one of the most respected figures in Group 20. “Footy’s, footy, regardless of the code,” he said. “You get the boys around and I’ve enjoyed it, it’s a really good bunch of guys at the Swannies. “I’ve played rugby league since I was eight, I love it and I still do. Whenever I get a chance, I’ll still go to watch Yenda. “I actually trained a couple of times in the pre-season and Roy (Romeo, coach) kept telling me I’ve got one more year left in me. “I knew if I stayed there, I would have ended up playing, but I’d bashed myself around in rugby league for long enough that I knew it was time to give it a rest.”
Yenda’s loss has been the Swans’ gain, with captain-coach Guy Orton glowing in his endorsement of Richards and the rest of the club’s reserves who have stepped to fill numerous gaps in the side. “It’s a tribute to our culture that even though we’re struggling, people are still putting their hands up and wanting to play,” he said. “Everyone understands if you get the call-up, you put on the guernsey and you give 110 percent. Everyone is on the same page.”
Richards will line up again at full-forward tomorrow for the Swans’ away trip to reigning premiers Narrandera. Che Jenkins (ankle) and Andrew Cappello (away) are both out of the side, making the club’s unlikely finals mission even tougher. Not that Richards minds. “I hate losing, don’t get me wrong...but I’m just loving the fact that I’m still out there and able to do it.” he said. “We must have an injury count in the high teens but with a little bit of luck for the rest of the year, we can string a few wins together and we might go OK. “But if we can keep these guys together, over the next couple of years we could be really competitive. “Barring any major injuries, I’d love to play again next year.”
(The Area News, Friday July 5, 2013).
MATHEWS TAKES REINS AS ORTON SIGNS ON – By Vince Rugari
THE Griffith Swans have secured a double coup for next season, signing former Ovens and Murray veteran Brandon Mathews as senior coach and star midfielder Guy Orton for a further two years.
Mathews takes over the full-time coaching reins from Orton, who has opted to concentrate solely on playing for the remainder of his career. Mathews, who joined Griffith this year but was restricted to just five games due to persistent hip injury, has no senior coaching experience but played nearly a decade under celebrated Lavington mentor Tim Sanson, widely considered one of the best coaches in country football.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I could help people or make a difference,” he told The Area News. “For me it’s not about me coaching the Swans, it’s about the Swans hopefully getting better and a bit more of a following and more people playing the game. It’s a pretty easy game if you can just work the basics out.
“I was lucky to have probably the best coach in country footy for a long time and you see how they did things and pick up some ideas. What (Sanson) got out of blokes was unreal.
“It doesn’t take a lot to teach people if they want to learn and that’s what Lavington was about when I was there – training was all working on skills and the basics.”
Orton’s re-signing ends speculation surrounding the future of last year’s Jim Quinn medalist, who will spend the off-season playing for St Mary in the Northern Territory Football League.
He said he was more than happy to step aside for Mathews, admitting he felt held back from his best football by the added responsibility of coaching. “I can’t say it hadn’t affected me because it does – you’re concentrating on your game but there’s a lot going through your head,” Orton said.
“I’m really looking forward to going out there next year with no pressure, just playing footy. “We’ve got enough on-field leaders in our team so to have Brandon on the sidelines doing the coaching I think will work well.
“But he won’t do everything – I’ve got a lot of knowledge he can draw from and there’s a lot of support around the town and in the club for him.” (The Area News, Wednesday September 25, 2013).
GRIFFITH SWANS PRESENTATION NIGHT – By Vince Rugari
SWANS great Mick Duncan has won his seventh club best and fairest award – but he’d trade them all in for a premiership in a heartbeat.
The silky-smooth midfielder collected the accolade at Griffith’s presentation night at the Ex-Servicemen’s Club, finishing ahead of 2013 captain-coach Guy Orton, who was runner up. It was Duncan’s fourth best and fairest in a row, and the ninth consecutive occasion he has finished inside the top three, having won it in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
But while happy with his own form this season, it won’t hide his disappointment with how a promising year for the Swans quickly turned into disaster as an unprecedented injury crisis took hold. Duncan was one of just three Swans players along with Dean Crack and Tom West, to have played every RFL match for the club this year – a statistic which speaks volumes about Griffith’s year of hell.
“I think we used something like 48 players in the first-grade side. When you’re chopping and changing the team every week you can’t settle down and do anything,” he said. “Personally. I had an injury free year, so I was pretty happy.
“My form was OK but from a footy point of view, it was disappointing. “It wasn’t that blokes weren’t trying; it was injuries that ruined it.
“Basically, by mid-year our season was over by weight of long-term injuries. There’s not a lot you can do.”
The Swans have already announced Brandon Mathews as new coach for next year, with star man Orton penning a two-year contract extension. Orton is currently playing for Northern Territory Football League side St Marys and it is understood to be scouting for players to bring back to Griffith with him.
Duncan said the Swans only need “two or three” more additions – and a bit of luck with injuries to become key players in the 2014 RFL premiership. “It was said by half a dozen people on the night – next year’s our 100th and everyone’s prepared to work hard over the off-season to make a memorable year for the footy club,” he said. “I reckon if training started next week, the majority of blokes would be there. That’s how keen we are.” (The Area News, Friday October 25, 2013).