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Season of expectation for local sporting teams

The Tumut Blues will need Josh Webb to stand up and make his presence felt this season.

As the new year begins, senior sporting clubs such as the Tumut Blues, Bulls and Eagles are beginning preparations for the 2020 winter sports season.

As with any new season, expectations will be high among the three clubs, and a sports-crazy Tumut will be demanding results at home and on the road.

Shouldered with the most weight of expectation is the Tumut Blues rugby league club, after their drought-breaking Group 9 success in 2019.   

Playing out of Twickenham Oval, the Blues who will be coached by brothers Dean and Lachlan Bristow, have already put together a solid line up and will be hoping to add to their squad in the coming weeks.

Blues president Bryan Black explained how recruitment was travelling for Tumut, suggesting some new signings will be announced shortly.

“We are talking to a couple of Kiwis and we hope to announce something shortly,” he said.

“We should also be announcing some major re-signings in the near future.”

Black is also expecting a young Blues squad to improve on last season’s premiership success and named three players that he expected to make the step up.

“We are hoping to see fringe players push their way into the starting team and make a position their own,” he said.

“Tommy Jeffery, Riley Sturt and Josh Webb have a chance to be regular first graders and start playing 80 minutes.”

The Blues president also earmarked some of the younger players coming through the club that could progress to first grade sooner rather than later.

“Jordy Maher and (Jack) Hillier are two that look ready to make the jump and play a bit of first grade next season,” he said.

Black didn’t dance around the topic of success either, suggesting anything less than a finals football appearance next season would be a failure.

“You would like to think we would play finals and make the grand final,” he said.

“Once you are in the grand final, anything is possible.”

In exciting times for the Tumut Blues, the club will field all five senior teams in 2020, with under 16s, 18s, reserve grade and women’s leaguetag teams in action.

“It’s good for the club to have all teams, including the girls,” he said.

“It brings more people through the gate and gets more people involved with the club.”

On the other end of the success spectrum is the Tumut Eagles, who faded badly in the 2019 Football Wagga Wagga competition.

Things only get worse for the Eagles, who will be without a host of their regulars, such as James Goode, Dylan Piper-Bye and Daniel Castle.

In what looks to be a season of transition and tough results, it will be exciting to see some of the younger Eagles products make their name in first grade.

Eagles president and first grade coach Matthew Lopez will be continuing in the top job and wasn’t looking too far ahead, admitting that the club could face tough times.

The Tumut Eagles won’t have Dylan Piper-Bye on the paddock this season after a knee injury.

“Without sounding too pessimistic, we are just keen to be competitive in the league against all teams,” he said.

“It’s obviously a transition period, with several faces departing, so it could be a potentially rocky start to the season.”

Lopez, who will be forced to blood youngsters such at Ethan Parker and Issac Gray, will again rely on senior players such as Ethan Kass and Reece Mastellotto to take the lead on the field.

The Eagles president admitted there was a big class different between the likes of Pascoe Cup heavyweights Hanwood FC, Lake Albert, Young and Henwood Park, especially when compared to Tumut, Cootamundra and South Wagga.

“There’s definitely a bit of a gap in quality, depth and strength between the top handful of teams and the chasing pack, and we are definitely in that chasing group,” he said. 

“So, we are looking to get wins against similar teams around us, and trying to test the top teams of the competition and make it difficult for them to get a win.”

The Tumut club that is hardest to read next season is the Tumut Bulls, who had a disastrous 2019 Southern Inland Rugby Union season.

Across all senior grades, a huge injury toll hurt the Bulls after a sensational start to the competition, resulting with no men’s teams featuring in the finals.

At one stage, 20 players with first grade experience were unavailable, resulting in players stepping up into unfamiliar territory.

The Bulls are looking to address this issue though, naming Jonathon Hulks and Mitch Ivill as the coaches this season and starting an off-season regime aimed at preparing players for the season ahead.

Ivill is looking for a more balanced result across the three men’s grades and women’s team, and wants to see every team featuring in the post-season.

“I think our main goal is to get all grades into finals contention,” he said.

“Personally, my goal is to try and get some good, healthy competition for positions between grades and players.”

The Bulls’ first grade team does have talented players to call upon as well, with Jon Carmody, Will Luff and Menzies Seumanutafa in the forwards and Stephen Gill directing backs, such as Harrison Friswell, Tate O’Donovan and Ivill.

The club hasn’t confirmed the re-signing of some key outside backs though but is entertaining the possibility of bringing new blood into the club, with announcements likely to be made soon.

In what looms as another exciting winter of sports, these clubs will start preseason training soon, preparing for the season ahead in their respective competitions.