Opinion

Recruiting like the lottery

by
June 16, 2017

Echuca's Ruory Kirkby has been one of the Goulburn Valley's elite players player this season, while fellow off-season recruit Cory Hargrave has returned to his home club.

Hawthorn's star off-season recruit Jaeger O'Meara may never get back to the form expected of him because of injury. Country clubs are just as effective in succeeding with recruiting, despite nowhere near the resources AFL clubs have. (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)

It can be difficult to nail that off-season recruit.

Picking up new players in country football is nothing like the AFL.

Clubs in the top flight are able to research every targeted player to the nth degree, but even then they can get it dramatically wrong.

It is still early to call, but Hawthorn looks to have completely bungled last year’s trade period.

Jaeger O’Meara was a genuine superstar when fit at the Gold Coast in his first two seasons, but sadly, knee problems mean the Hawks may never see anywhere near the best out of him.

With Ty Vickery, well, who knows what they were thinking there.

When you run through the recruits in the Goulburn Valley League, you can make a strong argument that country clubs nail their recruiting better than in the professional world.

Benalla brought three premiership stars from 2015 back to fill the void left by a number of departing flag heroes.

But the Saints were also able to bring in prolific VAFA goalkicker Jarrod Bannister, who set the league alight before being injured.

He fitted into Luke Morgan’s side seamlessly and Benalla looks a dangerous prospect with him roaming the forward half.

At Echuca, the Murray Bombers have gone at 50 per cent, with Ruory Kirkby’s return to his junior club a major success story having booted 33 goals and become one of the league’s marquee players.

The other big in at Victoria Park during the summer was Cory Hargrave from Murrumbeena.

Unfortunately for both parties, that situation has not worked and he is returning to his former club after only two senior games.

Euroa and the youngest coach in the league, JD Hayes, get a tick for how they recruited and it is showing with the Magpies’ best start to the season in 12 years.

It was going to be hard for former Melbourne player Rohan Bail to not be a success and he has almost slipped under the radar, despite his AFL pedigree.

Less heralded players such as Adrian Karatzas and Brock Storer have also shone.

Francis Kinthari was on fire for the Magpies early, but had to return to the Northern Territory after a family bereavement.

Everything Paul Newman and Kyabram touches turns to gold and former AFL-listed players Patrick Wearden and Brad Mangan have slotted in just as you would have expected.

Brett Mahoney had an outstanding career in Western Australia with Subiaco and his appearance back at Mansfield after a number of years away has given the Eagles a significant boost.

Mooroopna was coming from a long way back, but Clint Riley from Burnie has been superb, while his former teammate Romain Grenville is hoping for a decent run after injury hindered him early in the season.

Seymour relied mostly on bringing back homegrown talent, with Saad Saad still able to find the goals, but key defender Brent Ryan has been outstanding in his six games.

As Shepparton looks to turn into a bonafide premiership contender, Ben Davies and David Stretton have started to perform to the level expected from two former VFL stars.

Across at Shepparton United, the Demons unveiled arguably the two most talked about players of the off-season.

Luke Lowden’s homecoming after eight seasons in the AFL was a massive coup and he has delivered on and off the ground, despite taking a game or two to adjust to the GVL standard.

Hawthorn premiership cult hero Matt Spangher was the bonus for United when his good mate Lowden signed on.

Spangher’s influence is hard to judge because he has played just four games due to a combination of attending weddings and injury.

There is no doubt he has brought some crowds through the gate and his knowledge and wisdom around one of the youngest groups in the competition has been well received.

But the fans would love to see him completely dominate a game and he is yet to do that, having not even appeared for the blue and red since the win against Mooroopna in round six.

No-one was ever sure how often Spangher would play, but hopefully he is able to have a genuine impact in the second half of the season.

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