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IN: Ryan Bulluss (Tracey Village, NT), Ben Byrne (Picola United), Michael Griffiths (Angaston, SA), Josh Hamilton (Lavington), Michael Handby (Yarrawonga), Joel Hourigan (Charles Sturt University), Jack Ryan (Coolangatta Tweed).
OUT: Jordon Burley (Yanco-Woomoon R.L.), Mathew Crack, Dillon and John Evans, Matthew Hogan (Maitland), James Kennedy (Finley), Daniel Moysey (Cobden), Lance Poka (Yenda R.L.); Ben Byrne, Michael Handby (Yarrawonga), Jack Ryan (Coolangatta Tweed).
GUERNSEY MARKS CENTENARY – By Vince Rugari
The Griffith Swans’ red and white guernsey is already steeped in rich history – but this season, that history will be literally part of the fabric. In a first for the RFL club, the names of more than 1100 first grade players will be printed on the front of the Swans guernsey to mark the club’s centenary this season. The painstaking task was led by club historian Trevor Harrison, who has a treasure trove of information on the Swans formative years and runs website www.griffithswansarchive.com. He sifted through the archives and came up with a list of names that turns Griffith’s regular uniform into living celebration of the contribution of local players in the city for 100 years.
AFL and NRL clubs often print the names of members on the front of one-off jerseys, but rarely do clubs in the bush go to such lengths to honour their history and traditions. “If you need to know anything about the Swans, he’s the man,” club president Jeff Harris laughed. “It was a committee-level decision. We were looking to add something, we’ve put the work in and we’re pretty happy with what we’ve come up with. “They’re going to wear that for the season and we’ll take some orders for those, for anyone who wants to snaffle one of those up on the Anzac Day weekend. But the jersey is just one small part of the Swans plan to make the club’s 100 year unforgettable.
The committee has pulled out all stops, planning a huge Anzac Day weekend with the unveiling of the Club’s Team of the Century the centre piece. “There’s a bunch from various generations sorting that out – guys that have been involved with the footy club for a long time,” Harris said. “They’ve been putting their heads together, coming up with the criteria and going through a whole heap of historical info. “There’ll be some fairly handy names in there – a few that have graced AFL lists, back in the days when the stars in the VFL got a bit of money coming out to the country.” The Team of the Century dinner will be held at the main Exies Club on Saturday, April 26 – the day after Griffith’s first home game of the season.
The Swans will host rivals Leeton-Whitton under lights at Exies Oval on Anzac Day and a big crowd is expected to roll up. It will the first of three night games in Griffith this year. “We’ve always played with those twilight games but this year we were pretty keen to do some full-blown night games, particularly early in the season when the weather in nicer,” Harris said. “It should be a fair catalyst to get plenty of people down there, checking out a few new players and setting up our season. “It’s a chance to have a bit of dinner down there and make a night of it. “We’ll be looking at do a bit of two-up in the club after the game and that should flow into junior footy on Saturday and the dinner that night.” (The Area News, Monday February 3, 2014).
GIANTS’ NAMED SQUASHED – By Vince Rugari
The Giants name has been scrapped as the Griffith Swans move towards reunification of a club that was threatened by a growing divide at junior level. The city’s second junior Australian rules club will no longer bear the name and colours of the Greater Western Sydney Giants after club officials sought to stamp out “minor divisions” between the Giants and the Swans camps. This year, Griffith’s two teams in the South West Junior Football League will be known as Swans Red and Swans White. Both teams will wear identical uniforms and the Giants guernsey will only be used by the away team in local derbies.
GWS donated guernseys when the second club was formed for the 2011 season as the AFL expansion side looked to spread its brand across country NSW. However, club president Jeff Harris said it naturally caused fractions between the teams. “At the time it was a fairly logical decision but hindsight gives you the opportunity to review that and put a few things in place to make sure it’s the best it can be,” Harris said. “It was creating a bit of differentiation and rivalry between the two, and a minor degree of division. “This was a chance to set up our structures a little better and create that more inclusive environment.”
Harris added he was disappointed with the lack of engagement from the GWS Giants since providing the guernseys in late 2010. “We are in their recruitment zone but as far as seeing players out here, it was non-existent,” he said. Harris said the club will be only too happy to go back to its red and white roots given Griffith celebrates its centenary this year. “The red and white is footy in Griffith and particularly in the 100th year of the club, its pretty essential for those guys to be fully included in that and see themselves as part of the club,” Harris said. “It certainly aligns our two junior clubs much more closely with the seniors and their pathways.” (The Area News, Friday February 7, 2014).
SKY-HIGH SWAN – By Vince Rugari
The Griffith Swans have landed a major coop, solving their ruck issues with the signing of highly-credentialed big man Michael Griffiths. In a deal that has been months in the making, the 206cm giant will lead the ruck division for the Swans this season as the club seeks a return to the Riverina Football League finals in their centenary year. Griffiths, 30 years old, brings a wealth of experience after stints in the SANFL with Glenelg and in the WAFL with East Fremantle, while he was once a target of AFL clubs and trained with Collingwood at the end of 2007. An excellent tap ruckman, Griffiths should help provide first use of the football to the likes of Swans captain Guy Orton and best and fairest winner Mick Duncan and will only strengthen what is already one of the RFL’s best midfields.
Griffiths arrived in town on Monday, trained with his new teammates for the first time on Tuesday night and will feature in the club’s first practice match of the pre-season next weekend against Hume League outfit Rand-Walbundrie. “The boys trained pretty hard. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest, but I was surprised,” he told The Area News. “It wasn’t bad. I still don’t really know what to expect, but I’m just looking forward to getting amongst it. “With a town like this I guess there’s be a bit more expected of me but I just play footy. “I’ve just got to look after my body and do all that sort of thing so I can get on the footy field, but nine times out of ten I’m pretty good. “I’ll be out there to have fun and enjoy it and if you’re doing that, the rest will take care of itself.”
Griffiths has been in talks with the Swans since the middle of last year, and even took in a game at Exies Oval as club officials tried to woo him from South Australia, where he was playing with Angaston in the Barossa Light & Gawler Football Association. Club president Jeff Harris said: We identified a shortage of talls – there’s nothing new about that in country footy, they’re hard to come by. “It was one of the positions that was pretty critical to the club’s success and it’s good to get him across line.” Griffiths gives Swans coach Brandon Mathew the luxury of keeping the likes of James Toscan and Trevor Richards up forward for longer, while also taking pressure off the club’s developing key position players. “I know they’re pretty serious about their footy out here,” Griffiths said. (The Area News, March 7, 2014).
SWANS ADD STEEL – By Vince Rugari
Griffith’s recruitment drive has wrapped up with the club unveiling three impressive recruits on the eve of the Riverina Football League’s opening round. Ryan Bulluss, Ben Byrne and Joel Hourigan have all officially signed with the Swans and are set to make their RFL debuts this Saturday against Turvey Park in Wagga. Bulluss was spotted by club president Jeff Harris and coach Brandon Mathews on a scouting trip to Darwin late last year and after months of protracted negotiations, finally arrived in town last week. A hard-nosed utility with a raking kick capable of playing in the middle or wide on a flank, Bullus will provide a much-needed physical presence around the ball and inject valuable experience into the senior squad along with fellow signings Byrne and Hourigan, who have both moved to Griffith for work reasons.
Byrne joins from Picola & District Football League club Picola United and is a similarly versatile, big-bodied on-baller while small forward Hourigan spent last year with Farrer League club Charles Sturt University. “Throw Michael Griffiths in and we should be whereabouts,” Harris told The Area News. With the guys that missed most of last year through injury, the addition of these guys should give us the potential to be around the mark, “They all bring a bit of experience which should help the kids who got a decent opportunity last year, and we should be better off. The Swans are likely to to call upon their three new recruits this weekend but whether marquee signing Griffiths will join them at Maher Oval is unclear. The former Glenelg and East Fremantle ruckman is nursing an injured ankle (sustained on Coleambally Sportsground) and is touch and go for round one. (The Area News, Wednesday April 9, 2014).
SWANS TREASURE TROVE IS ALL THANKS TO TREV – By Vince Rugari
The Griffith Swans wouldn’t be celebrating their centenary this weekend if it wasn’t for the work of Trevor Harrison. That’s because they probably wouldn't know when it was. Volunteers are the backbone of bush sporting institutions and Harrison’s silent commitment to his unofficial role as the club’s historian is a prime example. It began 10 years ago, when he rescued a treasure trove of Swans programs, documents and collectibles from boxes that were likely headed for the tip. Harrison went through what he described as “one big mess” of information and digested it, produced a website, Griffith Swans Archive, that contains a level of historical depth that would make even AFL clubs envious. “This is in about 2000, I think. That’s when Ian Wade took over as president and I was on the committee,” he said. I went up to Ian Wade’s depot and he just gave me a whole heap of boxes. The club was having a clean out. “I saw it and said ‘what’s going on here?’ I swooped it up and put it all away. “I just went through them and sorted everything out.”
Harrison found great enjoyment in the undertaking, which came at a perfect juncture in his club life. He was keen to contribute to local football in a different way after 13 years as goal umpire. His website griffithswansarchive.com, contains all manners of results, statistics, facts and trivia from Griffith’s 100 years of football. “I’ve enjoyed just getting the job done,” he said. “This sort of stuff gets lost if someone doesn’t roll their sleeves up and does the hard work – that’s what it was. Someone had to do it and it may as well have been me.” Harrison’s obsession has been instrumental in the club’s centenary celebrations, which kick off on Friday with an Anzac Day game under light against Leeton-Whitton at Exies Oval. The following evening, the Swans will unveil their team of the century – a task only made possible by Harrison unearthing and piecing together Griffith’s largely unknown history. The team was put together six weeks ago by the panel including Harrison, Bob Spears, Ernie Wade and George Duncan, and will be announced at the centenary dinner at the Griffith Ex-Servicemen’s Club to be hosted by Sam Kekovich. “I probably did 80 per cent of the groundwork for that, to tell you the truth.” Harrison said. (The Area News, Wednesday April 23, 2014).
SOLDIER TO RELAY ANZAC SPIRIT TO INSPIRE SWANS – By Vince Rugari
The Griffith Swans will be given a first-hand account of what Anzac spirit truly means before tonight’s game. Coach Brandon Mathews has organised for Chris May, an Afghanistan veteran who was deployed when he was just 19 and returned home after injuries sustained from the explosion of a roadside bomb in 2011. May, the partner of Mathews’s sister – who is currently serving overseas – will address the Griffith players just prior to the first bounce against Leeton-Whitton and will share some of his experiences in both war and football, and how they intertwine. “When I see is as a soldier and having been to war – and having played competitive footy – is that a lot of values that soldiers have are exactly replicated in team sport,” May told The Area News. “Courage, initiative, teamwork, respect. What you do, you don’t do for yourself, you do it for your mates. “And at the end of the game, you’ve gone all out but you still shake the hands with your opposing force – which is exactly what the blokes did in World War 1.”
May is also keen to make sure the Swans understand that the Anzac legend has its roots in the Riverina. “Only an hour down the road, you’ve got a country boy and farmer by trade who won a Victoria Cross, Reg Rattey,” he said. Country boys are known for their bravery because they’ve already got that inside them, that mate-ship already ingrained into their lifestyle.”
Mathews said May’s speech should help the Swans keep football and life in perspective. “Anzac Day is one of thee most important days on the calendar and you wonder sometimes whether some of the younger ones know what it’s really about,” he said. “A game of footy is a game of footy, but what these blokes do is something else.” May will also present Griffith’s best player with a special ‘Soldier’s Trophy’ donated by the army. (The Area News, Friday April 25, 2014).
HANDY ADDITION FOR SWANS – Vince Rugari
The Griffith Swans have received a timely shot in the arm ahead of Sunday’s daunting trip to face RFL premier Coolamon with the signing of experienced utility Michael Handby. Handby, 30, plays for Yarrawonga in the Ovens & Murray League and is the current midfield coach of SANFL club North Adelaide. He was drafted by the Adelaide Crows with pick 38 in the 1999 National Draft but went on to forge a successful career in South Australia, playing with Glenelg, North Adelaide and South Adelaide, spanning nearly a decade. A former teammate of Swans ruckman Michael Griffiths at Glenelg, Handby’s coaching commitments mean he is unable to play for Yarrawonga this weekend, freeing him up for Sunday’s clash with the Hoppers.
Coach Brandon Mathews said Handby will make sporadic appearances for Griffith this year when circumstances allow for it. “Hopefully it might lead to something down the track,” he said. “He’s played a lot of high-level footy so it’ll be a real learning experience for our young guys, to play alongside someone like him. “Not only is he an unbelievable footballer to be playing in this competition but he brings other things as well. “The knowledge of the game he’s got and having a coaching role over there in Adelaide, he’s going to be able to help a lot of us out.” Handby’s recruitment comes on the back of another important signing this week, three-time Ovens & Murray representative Josh Hamilton, who joined Griffith this week. The 24-year-old is a towering key position player and is set to play six to eight games for the Swans this season, commuting from his current base in Chinchilla, Queensland. Hamilton comes to the Swans through his association with Mathews but only played two reserve grade games with Lavington last year owing to work reasons. “The beauty of Josh is that he can play in the ruck or anywhere he’s going to be the most value to us,” he said. “He could play centre-half-forward without a worry in the world. He loves contested footy, he loves a contest. “We certainly wouldn’t use him deep in the backline – we want to keep him in the play because he’s got really good skills, he’s smart, athletic.” But Mathews has warned the Swans that the arrival of Handby and Hamilton will be no silver bullet. (The Area News, May 9, 2014).
GRIFFITH TO START FRESH FOR PINK DAY CLASH - By Vince Rugari
THE cavalry has arrived for the Griffith Swans with four key players in line for a return against Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong in tomorrow's pink day clash at Exies Oval. New signing Josh Hamilton will make his second Swans appearance while veteran onballer Mick Duncan, utility Dean Crack and forward Trevor Richards are all available. The timing is critical as Griffith plots its resurgence with an important stretch of four of five games at home to come after the June long weekend. Coming off the representative bye, injured star Che Jenkins said the Swans are treating it as a "fresh start". "We're probably looking at it as a fresh start,' he said. "We'll reset for this middle block of games which because of our start is going to be the most important part (of the season). "We need to keep players back injury-free and get some consistent four-quarter footy under our belts for a few weeks - if we can do that we'll definitely improve." After tomorrow's match, Griffith faces Narrandera (away) before the Queen's Birthday weekend, then takes on Collingullie-AK (home), Turvey Park (home), Leeton-Whitton (away), Wagga Tigers (home), and Coolamon (home). If the Swans can reproduce their best, Jenkins believes all are winnable to varying degrees. He said his teammates can get the ball rolling tomorrow by winning first use of the football in the middle to starve GGGM's quality midfield. "That's where it will be won or lost, in the guts," Jenkins said. "If we can win the ball through the ruck I reckon our midfield will match them. "Hopefully if we can do that, it will improve our skills and options going forward. "The last couple of weeks we've been trying to drum into the boys that it's about possession footy. "Against Leeton, when we controlled the tempo with accurate passing and hanging onto the footy, we got back on our terms and had a win. "In the last few weeks against good sides we've just blasted away and we've been ordinary." The day starts early for Griffith's first grade players, who will go on a bucket run up Banna Avenue on Saturday to raise money for the Griffith Breast Cancer Support Group before the match kicks off at 4.10pm. The reserves play at 2pm, the under 17s at 12.20pm while netball is on from 11.30am. Both the Swans Red and Swans White junior teams will be in action tomorrow as well. (The Area News - Friday May 30, 2014).
FAMOUS FAMILY’S NEXT GENERATION – By Vince Rugari
He’s an AFL recruiter’s dream – a tall, strong, skilful 15-year-old with a background in basketball and rugby league and a family history of sporting excellence. Griffith’s Nathan Richards now has the world at his feet after earning selection in the NSW state team for the forthcoming AFL Under 15 Championships. The son of current Swans forward and ex-Yenda Blueheelers legend Trevor, the lanky and likeable teenager was a standout for Riverina South West at last week’s NSW Combined High Schools AFL carnival in Wagga.
Richard’s ruckwork and ability at ground level wowed selectors, putting him in the frame to take on some of the game’s best young players at next month’s national titles. “I’d say he was the dominant big man in the competition just with his rucking, at centre bounces and around the ground.” Riverina South coach Pat Edmunds said. “He tapped to his on-ballers really well, but also wasn’t afraid to smash it forward when he needed to. But the most pleasing thing about him is his work was never done – he tackled really well, threw his weight around. “I made him captain for our playoff game and he probably showed the best leadership qualities out of the boys during the week. “He’s ready for the next level, no doubt.”
Rchards plays for Griffith in the South West Junior Football League, but his ability has seen him regularly play up an age division for the Swans in the RFL. His under 17s coach Damien Scott believes there no telling what heights the multi-talented youngster could one day reach. “He put a massive preseason in for a young fella, training with the seniors, and it’s paying dividends,” Scott said. “If you said to them I’ve got a kid who’s 15 years old, 6’4”, he’s played rugby league, basketball and made the state side for Aussie Rules’…. you’d have to think it would bring up a red flag somewhere. “I don’t think he’s a kid that will leave any stone unturned, to be honest.”
Riverina South West finished the preliminary round of the NSW CHS carnival with three wins and one loss – equal with three other sides, although percentage saw them run fourth overall. Richards was joined by four other Griffith juniors in the squad – Angus Coldwell, Sam Foley, Jacob Conlan and Jack Rowston. “They’re all talented,” Edmunds said. “Wade High is pumping out some great footballers and they were amongst some of the better players. “The pleasing thing is Jack Rowston and Sam Foley have next year (in the carnival) as well and both have big futures.” (The Area News, Wednesday June 11, 2014).
RETURNING GIANT RECALLS GRIFFITH DEBUT - By Vince Rugari
THE last time GWS Giants star Jacob Townsend graced Exies Oval, he was almost decapitated by a Griffith Swans player. Making his Riverina Football League debut at the tender age of 15, the Leeton-Whitton product recalls his first touch of the footy well - which is quite fortunate, because he could have easily seen stars instead. "I can't remember who it was but they tried to clean me up a bit and take off my head, which was good. I don't mind that at all," Townsend laughed. "I think I kicked a couple of points as well, which probably should have been goals. "I don't think I played here again after that, because I went away, but it was always a bit hostile." While that sort of treatment is par for the course when the Crows come to Griffith, it was a different story on Wednesday when Townsend put the local kids through their paces during a clinic and Q&A session at Exies. On a whistle-stop trip through the Riverina with teammates Liam Sumner, Jake Barrett and Mark Whiley, Townsend - now 20 - looks back on his rough-and-tumble introduction to the RFL as the ideal breeding ground for the AFL environment. "If you're playing with the big boys then you get treated like one," he said. "In the TAC Cup, for instance, coaches go on about how they all come through at the same age and everyone wants to play offence. "When you're coming through country footy, you take on older blokes who want to rough you up and you learn ow to be tough a little quicker." Tough nut Townsend is one of several Riverina players on the GWS list, along with Narrandera's Zac Williams and Temora's Jake Barrett, while former Giant Kurt Aylett now plays with Essendon. He said he was honoured to be able to "get around" kids from his home region - and especially a little further inland from Wagga, where the Giants do most of their Riverina community work. The lack of engagement from GWS in Griffith was part of the reason why the Swans decided to remove the Giants branding from their second junior club, renaming it 'Swans White' this year. "Everyone thinks I'm from Wagga, actually," Townsend said. "I've been to Wagga four times for stuff like this and this is the first time I've been put out here for it. "The kids around here don't get this very often and there's around 200 of them here, which is really nice. "I know what it was like coming to these things as a kid and seeing AFL players. "You grow up dreaming of playing AFL and to come back and share my stories of how I was drafted is fantastic." Townsend has played 26 games for GWS, seven of them coming this season, and growing into his tagging role with every week. The Giants have won just three times this year but remarkably, only three wins separate them from the top eight. "We probably should have won a couple more early on," he said. "We haven't set any targets or goals on how many we want to win - it's just about improving in our key areas that we talk about as a group. "We are doing that. "We're only young - we're all 20, 21, so we've got plenty of time to learn still." (The Area News - Friday June 20, 2014).
RECORD SLAYER – By Samuel Gates
MICHAEL Duncan notched another accolade in his illustrious football career on Sunday becoming the all-time leading goal scorer for the Griffith Swans. Duncan passed Jamie Bennett’s decade-old record of 388 goals when he slotted his fourth in Sunday’s vital win against the Turvey Park Bulldogs at Exies Oval. Duncan went on to kick five in a best-on-ground performance and to set the mark at 390.
A couple of boys let me know when I passed it. I didn’t know when I passed it. I didn’t know if I was equal or if I beat it,” he said. “It not why I play footy, but it was nice. “It’s good to contribute personally. It’s the first time this year a close game has gone our way.”
Duncan reached the landmark tally in his 233 first grade game for the Swans, with the achievement made even more remarkable considering Duncan has played most of his career as an on-baller. “I’m just happy to play wherever I can contribute,” he said. “Ideally, I would love to play predominately more forward, but I’ll do whatever Brandon (coach) needs me to do.”
Duncan considers himself as more of a small forward or crumbing forward, rather than one of the big marking types. His surprising strength in contests when he goes forward has been part of the reason why the Swans have slowly been crawling their way up the ladder in the past month and now have a sniff of finals. (The Area News, Wednesday July 2, 2014).
SWANS STAR TO LEAVE CLUB - By Ben Jaffrey
Griffith Swans first grader Guy Orton is set to leave the club at the end of the year. After spending four years with the Swans, Orton is set to move back to Darwin before doing some travelling. “I’ll play out the season and then head off, the club knows about everything that’s going on,” Orton said. “There is other opportunities there. I actually just wanted to travel around a bit, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.” Orton is regarded as one of the best players at the club and coach Brandon Mathews is not sure if they will be able to fill the void next year.
“We’re obviously disappointed to lose a player like Guy, he’s pretty hard to replace,” Mathews said. Mathews said he was disappointed Guy was leaving, but said he had to do what was best for him. “His situation has changed, we wish him all the best and hopefully one day he wants to come back to the club,” he said. “We have to have a look around, we’ve got a plan of attack, we’ve got contacts around the place whether we get someone local or look elsewhere,” he said.
“Regardless whether Guy was leaving we needed to recruit a couple of players anyway to help the younger boys out but now we just have to look for another.” Mathews said the club would not only miss Orton’s influence on the field, but off it as well. “Obviously having been a coach he’s pretty well respected,” he said. “Just one of them blokes that people enjoy being around, he’s had a positive influence on the place. “He’s been around the traps a bit so his knowledge of the game is solid. “He was able to help out the younger blokes. “Just one of those like-able blokes that’ll be hard to replace.” Orton won two Jim Quinn Medals for best and fairest of the Riverina Football League in 2011 and 2012, has played 58 games for the club and kicked more than 50 goals. (The Area News, Friday July 18, 2014).
COACH STAYS IN NEST FOR SWANS 2015 - By Andrew Piva
Griffith Swans player-coach Brandon Mathews will look to bolster his Riverina Football League squad with more experience in the summer after re-signing for next year. The Swans finished sixth on the ladder this season, two wins out of the play-off contention. Given how close his team came to September football, Mathews said finals were on the agenda for 2015. It (making finals) isn’t going to happen overnight, but we’ve go a fair idea of what we need to work on to get there,” he said. “We saw this year when we played well, we can mix it with anyone. “We’re probably lacking a little bit of experience and a couple of top-end players. “It’s not only what they can do on the field, but the way they can help the young blokes out. “The way it’s been, we’ve been asking a fair bit of the young blokes without giving them a chance to learn.”
While the Swans face a challenge to fill the void left by departing midfielder and two-time Jim Quinn Medallist Guy Orton, Mathews believes his squad only needs minor tinkering. “We’re not going to try and find 10 players or anything. We don’t need that many,” Mathews said. “I think we’ve got enough here. It’s just a matter of the young guys improving and getting a couple of experienced blokes to help them out. “We have had a few close games this season and you could see we were lacking a bit of quality.”
In other news, Swans reserve grade player Kris Duncan was slapped with a 10-match suspension by the AFL Riverina tribunal after pleading guilty to two counts of umpire abuse. The incident, which happened during the Swans’ elimination final loss to Mangoplah-CUE on August 31, resulted in Duncan being sent from the field. (The Area News, Monday September 29, 2014).