NORTH Albury coach Travis Hodgson believes the addition of former AFL player Damian Cupido could be the spark that lifts the Hoppers back into the Ovens and Murray league’s top five.
The Hoppers yesterday revealed they had signed Cupido on a one-year contract and with the club already possessing the league’s premier power forward in captain Dan Leslie, Hodgson said the recruitment of Cupido would cause plenty of headaches in opposition camps.
A confident Hodgson said North Albury could force its way back into the O?and?M top five after finishing seventh last year.
“This year we were in the finals until the last couple of rounds … with a little bit of luck we could have sneaked in,” he said.
“Certainly with the fact we’ve minimised our departures and with Damian on board, we think we’re going to be around the mark.
“We probably haven’t had as many losses as other clubs have … we were keen to add a top-liner and we’re rapt we’ve got one.
“We all saw him play AFL and after speaking to a few people over in South Australia, they’ve said you can play him anywhere, but inside 50m with Leslie, he’ll be pretty handy.
“There’s no reason he can’t be an exceptional player here and it will take a lot of pressure off Dan … it’s pretty exciting.”
Cupido, the first South African-born footballer to play AFL, managed 53 matches and kicked 66 goals in stints at the Brisbane Lions and Bombers after being selected with the sixth pick of the 1999 national draft.
He was cut by the Bombers at the end of the 2005 season, joining SANFL clubs South Adelaide and then West Adelaide.
Despite being approached by a number of clubs in Melbourne and the O?and?M, Cupido said the decision to play with North Albury was an easy one.
“It’s fantastic, I’m rapt to be up here — it’s all come around pretty quickly, but I’m really comfortable with the decision I’ve made,” he said.
“I played cricket up here (Bunton Park, during the Australian Country Cricket Championships earlier this month) and I fell in love with the feel of the ground, I just felt at ease, and it was a pretty easy decision for me.”
The enigmatic forward said he would try to pass on some of his knowledge to the Hoppers’ younger brigade.
“Having played under coaches like (Kevin) Sheedy and (Leigh) Matthews, I think my experience will help some of the young guys at the club,” he said.
Cupido is now based in Melbourne and will travel to play at weekends, although he is trying to secure
employment locally which would result in him possibly moving to the area.