Rams prepar­ing for big sea­son

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

There seems lit­tle doubt that Na­timuk United will be among teams set­ting a course for fur­ther im­prove­ment when Hor­sham Dis­trict foot­ball swings back into ac­tion later this year.

The Rams have in the off-sea­son con­tin­ued to con­sol­i­date struc­tural, fi­nan­cial and so­cial foun­da­tions, which com­bined with a sniff of fi­nals last year, au­gurs well for an out­fit set on chal­leng­ing the pace­set­ters.

His­tory shows that Na­timuk United clawed its way into an elim­i­na­tion fi­nal last sea­son, only to fall at the line by four points to Swifts.

The result is sure to have provided the play­ing list with a burn­ing in­cen­tive for this year.

Coach Sam An­son, again di­rect­ing traf­fic from the field, said as much in sum­maris­ing his team’s pre-sea­son build-up. “There is a very good vibe at the club at the mo­ment,” he said. “We have good num­bers and depth, this year is go­ing to be fantastic.

“We’re def­i­nitely in a lot bet­ter po­si­tion than we were at this time last year. We were very in­ex­pe­ri­enced in the fi­nals last year

– I think only five play­ers had been in fi­nals – and now we’ve had a taste for it, the hunger is there.”

Pro­vid­ing fuel for grow­ing con­fi­dence in the camp is a suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ing cam­paign, which ap­pears to have iced a promis­ing group.

At the top of the list is new as­sis­tant coach Garry Hal­lam, sure to bring con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence and de­fen­sive bal­ance to the list.

Join­ing him is Jay­den Styles, who played with An­son in Mel­bourne Am­a­teurs’ team Ver­mont and is de­scribed by An­son as ‘pow­er­ful: a bit of a steam train with the abil­ity to jump’.

Queens­lan­der Jack Ford, re­cruited to the club last year but se­ri­ously hurt­ing his knee and miss­ing the sea­son, is also back for an­other crack.

“We have also stum­bled across a few new play­ers, but we’ll leave an­nounc­ing who they are in the bank for the mo­ment,” An­son said.

“Just hurry up round one – how I wish it started next week.

“We won’t change things a great deal and simply add to ba­sics from last year. I’m very con­fi­dent that this will get us across the line – we just have to get ev­ery­one on board.”

An­son summed his thoughts on the ap­proach­ing sea­son with: “It’s go­ing to be a great sea­son and some­thing the league has needed. There are go­ing to be a lot of 50-50 games.”

Na­timuk United pres­i­dent Adam Blake said the Rams looked forward to big a year and was de­lighted that ‘ac­tiv­i­ties and fundrais­ers had kept ev­ery­one to­gether in a tight bunch’.

He said sub­tle com­mit­tee re­struc­tures to bet­ter man­age money rais­ing and spon­sor­ship and grow the club so­cially were al­ready bear­ing fruit.

“The en­vi­ron­ment is so com­pet­i­tive you can’t just sit back and rely on what’s worked in the past,” he said.

“We’ve been re­ally ded­i­cated dur­ing the sum­mer to build­ing those ar­eas. Fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, mem­ber­ship and at­ten­dance are all crit­i­cal, as too is be­ing as suc­cess­ful as pos­si­ble.”

Mr Blake said while the club re­mained solidly based at Na­timuk, he was de­ter­mined to en­sure it main­tained and built on a Hor­sham United con­nec­tion and its rich his­tory.

“For us it is re­ally im­por­tant and to em­pha­sise this we will cel­e­brate the 30th an­niver­sary of Hor­sham United’s 1988 premier­ship later this year,” he said. “It’s taken a bit of time for ev­ery­one to get their heads around the merger but it is im­por­tant to recog­nise the past.

“The re­union is a chance to cel­e­brate his­tory and to wel­come back peo­ple who were in­volved and those who still are.

“In fact, part of a ma­jor re­vamp of our clu­b­rooms in­cludes a ded­i­cated ef­fort to honour­ing Hor­sham United’s rich his­tory.”

Mr Blake said early is­sues sur­round­ing under-17 num­bers seemed to have been re­solved and the club was in a strong po­si­tion.

“I’m re­luc­tant to make bold pre­dic­tions, but I felt last year that if we worked hard to at­tract a few more play­ers and re­tain the bulk of play­ers we had we wouldn’t be far off the pace,” he said.

“I think we are go­ing to worry most teams and mix it with the best.”

Na­timuk United won’t play a tra­di­tional An­zac Day clash this year, based on the event be­ing mid-week and is­sues in find­ing a will­ing op­po­nent. But of­fi­cials, acutely aware of the club’s his­tory as the re­gion’s foot­ball flag-bearer for re­turned ser­vice­men and women, are con­sid­er­ing mark­ing the oc­ca­sion in some other way.

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