Mulwala replaces exodus with key signings

Newly appointed Mulwala co-coach Ben James.
Newly appointed Mulwala co-coach Ben James.

MULWALA co-coach Ben James believes the Lions can stay a Murray league force this season despite being rocked by the departure of almost their entire list from last year’s losing grand final side.

In a tumultuous off-season, only five players remain from the side that lost the decider to Echuca United by 62 points.

James, in his first year as coach, has been able to help replace the exodus of experienced players, snaring several key signings.

Headlined by the arrival of former Sturt utility Patrick Fittock, the Lions have also signed Southern districts trio Will Farrah, Dean Staunton and Matt Cannard.

Hayden Harmer (Aberfeldie), Matt Howard (Rennie), Gareth Oughton (Billabong Crows), Paul Banch (Scarborough), Jarrod O’Shea (Tungamah), Liam Russell, Nathan Cook and Nathan McNair (Yarrawonga thirds) have also signed.

In a further boost James alongside Josh Hammond are returning from knee reconstructions after missing last season.

While many pundits expect the Lions to slide down the ladder, James said he was keen to prove the critics wrong.

“Losing so many players from last year is not ideal but I think we have found some handy replacements,” James said.

“We are just like every other club trying to make finals.

“I think we have got a good mix of players with some quality recruits alongside some young, fast, skillful players.

“We will start the season as the biggest unknown quantity but having a brand new side to coach is exciting.”

The Lions will play practice matches against St Albans, Rand-Walbundrie and West Meadows before travelling to take on Deniliquin on April 12 for their season opener.