Pan­thers’ early work set to pay off

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Footy Countdown - BY DEAN LAW­SON

An early se­nior coach­ing appointmen­t ap­pears likely to pro­vide Ru­pa­nyup with the foun­da­tion it needs to re-es­tab­lish it­self as a com­pet­i­tive force in Hor­sham Dis­trict foot­ball.

The Pan­thers swooped in to quickly se­cure the lead­er­ship ser­vices of tal­ented Jack Mus­grove at the end of last sea­son and domi­noes have since started fall­ing into place. Pan­thers pres­i­dent Rod Wei­de­mann said it was well recog­nised that an early coach­ing appointmen­t was crit­i­cal in a pre-sea­son build-up and con­fi­dence was al­ready grow­ing in the camp.

“Re­cruit­ing-wise, it cer­tainly makes it eas­ier when you’re talk­ing to prospec­tive play­ers if you have a coach in place, and we have had some pretty handy in­clu­sions,” he said.

Ru­pa­nyup fin­ished 10th on the lad­der with four wins last year, but showed plenty of prom­ise when fi­nally find­ing its feet late in the sea­son.

Mus­grove, in Dar­win play­ing for St Marys in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory League and also an AFL North­ern Ter­ri­tory de­vel­op­ment co-or­di­na­tor, sets a high bar as a player and will shift into the coach­ing po­si­tion when he re­turns to the Wim­mera in March.

Last year’s coach An­drew May has the reins for the pre-sea­son and af­ter pass­ing on the job to Mus­grove will con­tinue to use his ex­pe­ri­ence in the Pan­thers’ coach­ing group.

Aeri­al­ist Zack May will con­tinue as as­sis­tant coach and the club will also wel­come Matt Tyler back to the fore af­ter a suc­cess­ful stint with Spring­bank in Bal­larat.

El­liott Kelly from La­trobe Univer­sity club is also set to add spice to the Pan­thers’ midfield.

Per­haps the big­gest ex­cite­ment for the Pan­thers is the in­flux of other St Marys play­ers Denny Mus­grove, Jack’s brother, Zac Robin­son and Chris Par­ris, who will join Hugh Mcmur­trie in the group trav­el­ling south.

All are North­ern Ter­ri­tory pre­mier-di­vi­sion play­ers who are shift­ing to the Wim­mera.

Mr Wei­de­mann said Kelly, who is work­ing in Hor­sham, was mov­ing well on the train­ing track, Denny Mus­grove loomed as a run­ning wing­man, Robin­son ap­peared a handy re­bound half back and Par­ris shaped as an in-and-un­der ball-win­ner.

“We have David Lang back af­ter hav­ing a year off with in­jury and Camp­bell Matthews and David South have re­turned to the club,” he said.

Jack Mus­grove said from Dar­win that the blend of home-grown play­ers and new re­cruits would pro­vide an ideal en­vi­ron­ment to de­velop a well-struc­tured team.

“I’m hop­ing we can move the ball a lot quicker this year. We tended to get stuck around half back last sea­son, but with the guys we have com­ing in and con­sid­er­ing how fast the foot­ball is in Dar­win, it should all work well,” he said.

“I’m cer­tainly go­ing to give it a red-hot crack and hope­fully ev­ery­thing falls into place. I’ll be work­ing closely with Maysie – I re­spect him highly and work­ing to­gether will be great.

“We lost a lot of games by less than 10 points last year. Hope­fully with these six or seven new play­ers we should be able to make up about five goals. “I’m play­ing with a great club – the best bunch of blokes I’ve played with in coun­try Vic­to­ria.”

Mr Wei­de­mann added that Ru­pa­nyup would also have the rare lux­ury this year of hav­ing play­ers grad­u­at­ing from un­der-17 ranks.

“We’re start­ing from a pretty low base but it would be nice to think we could fig­ure in the fi­nals this year,” he said. “Like ev­ery other club, that’s what we’re aim­ing for, but we feel it’s a rea­son­able goal this year.”

Ru­pa­nyup has strug­gled for ju­niors in re­cent years but has 25 starters and pos­si­bly more to come in un­der-14s, while an un­der-17s list re­mains rel­a­tively thin.

The Pan­thers are train­ing on Mon­day and Wed­nes­day nights at Ru­pa­nyup re­serve, which will change to Tues­day-thurs­day in the near fu­ture.

Mr Wei­de­mann said the club was en­joy­ing strong and loyal sup­port from the dis­trict’s farm­ing and sporting com­mu­ni­ties.

Jack Mus­grove

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