East Wagga-Kooringal have got the ball rolling on their 2018 campaign with the signing of three former Riverina League rising stars and the return of a Hawks premiership player.
The versatile Steve Smith will be back at Gumly after a year off, and will find at least three new faces there, with former Coolamon pair Nick Curran and Harry Fitzsimmons joining the Hawks along with Joe Banks, who played in Collingullie-Glenfield Park’s premierships of 2014 and 2015.
New EWK coach Matt Hard was delighted to confirm their arrival.
“Nick, Harry and Joe are all good young footballers,” Hard said.
“Joe’s a very good user of the footy and played some good footy for Gullie down back. He’s only 20-odd and he’s played in a couple of Collingullie premierships.
“Nick plays across half-back, he’s a mature body and I think he has a lot of upside.
“Harry played rugby league last year and he’s keen to get back into the right game. I’m hoping he can fill a role for us in the middle next year.”
Curran, only one year out of under 17s, played 26 senior games in the last two years at the Hoppers under Hard.
Fitzsimmons was also a regular first grader at Coolamon before his break, playing a full season in 2016.
Both were looking for a change and Hard’s appointment at EWK saw them link with the Hawks.
The new coach is hoping a change can bring out the best in Banks who was full of promise a couple of years ago but unable to break into first grade this year.
“He’s got very good foot skills and makes very good decisions so we’ll be wanting him to get as much of the footy as possible,” Hard said.
Smith’s return to the Hawks’ nest adds to their depth.
“Getting Steve back is a bit of experience, he’s a premiership player. He’s had a year off (after the Hawks’ 2016 success) so he’s refreshed.”
The Hawks expect to retain the players who took them to a preliminary final this year but they won’t see reliable full-back Tim Smith (Steve’s brother) who is undergoing a knee reconstruction.
Hard said the Hawks are still hoping to find a key forward after they struggled for firepower following Marc Geppert’s departure last year.
But he said it’s been a positive start to his tenure at the club and is looking forward to kicking off pre-season on January 16.