Mon­tagna coup for Rats’ opener

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport -

Ararat Foot­ball Club pres­i­dent David Jen­nings has de­scribed a de­ci­sion by for­mer St Kilda star Leigh Mon­tagna to sign on for the Rats in a one-off game to start the sea­son as ‘simply fantastic’.

A de­lighted Mr Jen­nings said apart from an ob­vi­ous on-field ad­van­tage Mon­tagna was likely to give the Rats in a Good Fri­day sea­son opener at Ararat’s Alexan­dra Oval, the pro­mo­tion was sec­ond to none.

“It’s just fantastic ex­po­sure for us and the league,” he said.

“There is a lit­tle bit of an un­known about what it will bring, but hav­ing some­one who not only has played at the top level, but was play­ing last year, come into the side cer­tainly adds a bit of spice and in­cen­tive for peo­ple to come and have a look.”

Mon­tagna, 34, played 287 games for St Kilda be­tween 2002 and 2017. He rep­re­sented Aus­tralia five times be­tween 2008 and 2010 in In­ter­na­tional Rules games against Ire­land.

Mr Jen­nings said an ironic twist in­volv­ing Mon­tagna’s ap­pear­ance for the Rats was that it would be his first ‘club’ game.

“The story is that St Kilda re­cruited him from the North­ern Knights in the under-18s. He’s never played a se­nior game for a re­gional club, so in some ways it will be a rel­a­tively new ex­pe­ri­ence for him,” he said.

Mr Jen­nings said Ararat lead­ers had been search­ing for a high-cal­i­bre player to pro­mote the Rats, the league and the mar­quee sea­son opener on March 30.

He said the project had fallen into place be­cause Mon­tagna had fam­ily con­nec­tions with for­mer coach and player Mick Fratin.

“Leigh missed half of last year with in­jury but he’s been train­ing and is fight­ing fit. He’s ready to rock,” he said.

“As well as our usual fol­low­ers, we want ev­ery St Kilda sup­porter within 200 kilo­me­tres to come and watch Leigh in ac­tion.

“We’re also go­ing to make use of his ser­vices, es­pe­cially on the Wed­nes­day be­fore­hand. He’s more than happy to come up and do a bit for us and to join in with the lads.”

Mr Jen­nings stressed that bring­ing Mon­tagna into the foot­ball equa­tion was about the Ararat club mak­ing sure it em­braced and gave some­thing back to grass­roots foot­ball.

“Ararat Foot­ball Net­ball Club wants to main­tain a tra­di­tion of fly­ing the sport­ing flag for Ararat. We have fantastic fa­cil­i­ties and a great set-up gen­er­ally, and re­ally want ev­ery­one in town to em­brace their club,” he said.

On March 28, Mon­tagna will be avail­able for au­to­graphs at Alexan­dra Oval from 4pm.

He will take half-hour train­ing ses­sions with both under-14 and under-17 squads be­fore join­ing train­ing with the club’s se­nior group.

Af­ter train­ing the club will have a dinner and has in­vited the pub­lic to at­tend at a cost of be­tween $40 and $50 a head. Mon­tagna will speak at the event for about an hour.

“Af­ter play­ing on Good Fri­day, Leigh will join us for an af­ter-match re­cep­tion that will in­clude a meal, band and so­cial evening,” Mr Jen­nings said.

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