Tallangatta is set for a new era under Tim Kennedy who replaced Tyson Smith over the off-season. The Hoppers have been relatively quiet on the recruiting front so far but have also kept departures to a minimum. Kennedy caught-up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE
BRENT GODDE: Have you had much luck recruiting so far?
TIM KENNEDY: We have signed a few younger players in Mitchell McLean, Ned Quinn and Sean Barran who all played thirds in the Ovens and Murray last year and have come back to the club. I'm hopeful of one or two more signings before the season but nothing else is confirmed at the minute.
BG: You have been able to keep departures to a minimum?
TK: Sam Maher has decided to retire because he is expecting the arrival of his second child. Ben Hollands is relocating from the area and also won't be running around again this season. They are the two definites so far and I'm confident of keeping the rest of the list together.
BG: Tallangatta is renowned for producing its fair share of home grown talent. Any kids in the thirds that you expect to be given senior opportunities this season?
TK: Riley Brock is probably the standout. Riley has been training the house down and doing extra sessions to give himself every opportunity.
BG: Do you still think the Hoppers boast a list capable of remaining a finals threat?
TK: For sure. I'm really confident in what the group can achieve this season. I feel we had the list last year but probably didn't play to our potential for most of the season for whatever reason. We learnt a lot from some of those losses we had against the better sides. There will be a few subtle changes to our game plan and systems which hopefully helps us cover the ground a little bit better. I would be wasting everybody's time if I didn't think we could make finals.
BG: How were the numbers at pre-season training before the Christmas break?
TK: We were getting 25 to 30 blokes most sessions which is probably standard for us at that time of the year. Hopefully we get a bit more of a spike in numbers as we get closer to the start of the season.
BG: Do you think COVID will rear its ugly head again this season?
TK: I'm hopeful that the worst of it will be over by the time the season commences. The way things are trending, it could have the biggest effect over the pre-season and decimate numbers for practice matches. I'm hoping we are over the worst of it by March and that we can then have an uninterrupted season. I wouldn't be surprised to see some clubs having to forfeit reserves matches because of player unavailability due to COVID and isolation.
BG: Who do you feel looms as the biggest improver this season?
TK: I think it's impossible to go past Dederang-Mt Beauty. The Bombers have had a productive off-season in regards to recruiting and were ultra-competitive against most of the top-five sides last year. I also expect Barnawartha to improve after bolstering their list with young talent from Wodonga. They are certainly the two clubs that have been the most active in regards to recruiting.
ALSO IN SPORT
BG: Who have you got starting the season as flag favourite?
TK: I think little separates the top-six sides to be honest. If I was forced to pick one, I would lean towards Chiltern based on watching them play last year. Signing Scott Meyer was one of the recruits of the off-season. But I think last year proved whoever turned up on the day was the side most likely to win and if you had a bad day, you would get rolled.
BG: You have already got a couple of practice matches organised?
TK: So far we are going to play Epping in early March and then Rand-Walbundrie-Walla the following week. I'm hoping to find one more practice match.
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