Montagna coup for Rats’ opener
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.