North Albury’s explosive signing of West Adelaide captain Chris Schmidt has signalled the Hoppers’ return as a league ‘player’.
The club had fallen behind the other four Albury-Wodonga outfits, posting just eight wins from 36 games in the past two years.
And the Hoppers’ first-semi win over Wodonga Raiders in 2010 remains their only finals triumph in the past 10 seasons.
But landing the West Adelaide premiership captain is the first step towards regaining respectability.
Wangaratta premiership player Michael Newton, who played with Schmidt for the SANFL and against him at club level, was quizzed if he would be in the O and M’s top four players.
“You’d say so, you’d say he’d be one of the premier midfielders in the comp,” he said.
“He just has that ability to find the ball, so you probably compare him with (Yarrawonga’s) Mark Whiley, that type of player.”
Whiley wowed the O and M last season, finishing joint runner-up in the Morris Medal.
“It’s hard to understand he didn’t play more AFL,” West Adelaide premiership coach Mark Mickan said.
“He can play multiple roles, he can play half-back, midfield, wing, even pinch-hit up forward.
“He hasn’t really got a weakness to be honest … and the good thing is he’s such a good person to have at the club, he’s very aware of other players’ circumstances.”
Mickan says Schmist is extraordinarily fit.
“He went overseas for a month and then won the beep test,” Mickan enthused.