Kiewa-Sandy Creek is a genuine heavyweight of the competition who once again looked primed to challenge for the flag. Adam Mudra has been replaced at the helm by Jack Neil. Neil is the first to admit there is plenty of pressure attached to coaching a club that has enjoyed a sustained run of success. "I guess pressure is a privilege," Neil said. Neil caught-up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE
BRENT GODDE: Apart from the prized signing of Connor Newnham, you have been relatively quiet on the recruiting front which is to be expected considering the quality of the list?
JACK NEIL: We have also welcomed back Zac and Caleb Simmonds and there could be another couple of former players return before the season commences. The club is relatively happy where our list is at and felt it didn't need to target too many further recruits.
BG: I guess it's a luxury as a newly appointed coach taking over a list that appears to be firmly in the premiership window?
JN: It's no secret that the group has had a sustained period of success for more than the best part of the last decade. That doesn't happen by accident and is a reward for all the hard work the club does in keeping its list intact. Kudos has to go to the club officials and volunteers and Adam Mudra for the terrific job he has done for the past five years.
BG: Any confirmed losses?
JN: Chris Lewis has departed the club and has signed for some suburban club in Melbourne as far as I know. We may also lose a couple of kids who have a chance to move away for university.
BG: Signing Newnham was a huge coup for the club with the former Wodonga Raider expected to dominate in the lower level of the Tallangatta and district league?
JN: It was a massive signing considering Connor has still got his best football ahead of him. Obviously playing in the Tallangatta league, it will take him a bit of time to adapt to a different style of football. Connor boasts all the attributes to be one of the premier forwards in the competition. But as a coach, I won't be relying on Connor to be a match-winner more just to play his role for the side.
BG: Have you decided whether Newnham will play closer to goal or further up the ground?
JN: I think that is one of our biggest strengths in that we have a lot of players that are versatile and can play numerous roles. You don't want to be too predictable when going forward and a lot depends on the match-up against the opposition side.
BG: Do you feel any pressure taking over from Mudra who boasts an enviable coaching record?
JN: Absolutely. But I guess pressure is a privilege. If there is pressure on you, you are doing something that is valued or quite a challenge. So the pressure is there but the club is so supportive and so is the playing group which makes my job a lot easier.
BG: How were the numbers at pre-season training before the Christmas break?
JN: We were getting 25 to 30 most sessions in the four week block before Christmas. That was decent numbers considering the number of tradies we have at the club who were flat out with work before the festive season.
ALSO IN SPORT
BG: Do you think COVID will rear its ugly head again during the season?
JN: I think it's inevitable that you are not going to have your full list to choose from some weeks with players either having COVID or in isolation. But personally I'm a lot more confident of getting a full season this year compared to the past two years.
BG: Which side looms as the biggest improver at this early stage?
JN: I don't know if you would say the biggest improver but I expect Yackandandah and Chiltern to be the two sides most likely to progress deep into September. Dederang-Mt Beauty has recruited well and you would expect to climb the ladder. Barnawartha has attracted a lot of young recruits and are probably one of the hardest sides to get a gauge on until you play them.
BG: Who starts the season as flag favourites?
JN: I can't see the top-five changing much with Chiltern the side to beat. The Swans played a style of footy last year that can withstand the pressure of finals football. Luke Brookes has added a bit more class and the hunger for a flag is there which makes the Swans even more dangerous.
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