Nhill Tigers bolster their ranks
There’s a tired old sporting expression that a champion team will always beat a team of champions.
And regardless of the quality of personnel joining Nhill in Wimmera Football League this year, when you break it down, that’s the over-arching philosophy new coach Tim Bone has adopted.
The truth is, Nhill has experienced one of its best pre-season build-ups in years and for the first time in almost a decade one of its great strengths appears to be player depth.
The Tigers, despite a couple of disappointing departures, have recruited strongly, not only bolstering the ranks with newcomers, but also welcoming back home-grown players.
It might well be that the strength of Nhill’s reserves, providing all-important pressure on senior positions, proves the catalyst for a Tigers rise this year.
The Tigers have farewelled Toohey Medallist Billy Hayes, Callum Semple, Ben Kirsopp, Jack Sampson and Lucas Dahlenburg with best wishes.
It is a departure list that would have knocked the stuffing out of
some previous Tiger team lists – but not so this year. The talent slipping into Davis Park appears, on paper at least, more than adequate to fill the gaps.
Bone, now 35, cut his teeth with the Tigers and in establishing himself as a slick goal-kicking runner, twice representing the Big W, and his last-hurrah seasons promise plenty.
Joining him this year are former Maribyrnong captain and onballer Simon Cave, notable Bellarine and Geelong league goal-kicker Scott Hughes, lofty ruckman-key position player Ben Jones and other newcomers Jess Morano, Maribyrnong, and Stephen Craig, Kybybolite.
Former Nhill players Nick Bone, Jake Pilgrim and Mitch Dahlenburg are also on the ‘in’ list and adding to overall excitement at club level is the return of the likes of Riley Launer, Nathan Jensz, Nathan Sparling, Mark Mceldrew and Lachlan Meek.
Tim Bone, who has played in Mackay in Queensland for the past 10 years, said he was looking forward to the challenge of leading his home club and returning to ‘full-on’ football.
“There has been a really good buy-in from the playing group and it appears we’re going to have depth and youth,” he said.
“With the team being down for a fair while, we have identified a need to modify club culture and for me that’s about lifting the bar in everything from training standards to expectations.
“We’re going to be about efficiency, working hard to win and hang on to the football, and while we have a tough start to the season, it would be nice to start off with a win.”
Bone said ‘strength in numbers’ was a priority for the Tigers.
“We won’t be relying on particular individuals – it is all about the team and whoever is selected,” he said.
“We expect everyone to come in and play a role and that’s what we will be all about – not one or two blokes doing the heavy lifting.
“We have a good list, a good mix and that’s why I think we can be seriously competitive.”
Tigers football director Matt Fritsch stressed that developing a positive, productive and healthy culture throughout the club underpinned much of what the Tigers were doing.
“The philosophy is that culture creates success and the club needs to create that culture before we can demand that success,” he said.
“We’re moving forward and looking to the future.
“We have consistently had between 32 and 37 on the track for pre-season, which is probably the best we’ve had for five to 10 years.”
Mr Fritsch said former coach Alan Bennett had laid solid foundations within the Tigers playing group and Bone was the right person to continue the progress.
“We are confident we have the right coach and the feeling around the football is great,” he said.
With Bone’s return, the Tigers are planning a reunion of Nhill’s 1998 under-16 premiership team.
Nhill’s pre-season preparations include matches against Bordertown and Padthaway.
The Tigers, in providing a regional blueprint as part of an over-arching community sporting club, have extensive financial support from a lengthy list of sponsors.