North Wagga sign Ben Alexander and Jarrod Conway while Mitch Stephenson returns to The Rock-Yerong Creek

COMING BACK: After a season at Coolamon last year, Ben Alexander's return to North Wagga continues the Saints' big off-season. Picture: Les Smith
COMING BACK: After a season at Coolamon last year, Ben Alexander's return to North Wagga continues the Saints' big off-season. Picture: Les Smith

Former Coolamon teammates Ben Alexander (North Wagga) and Mitch Stephenson (The Rock-Yerong Creek) will be back in the Farrer League this year, with both electing to return to their previous clubs.

At North Wagga, momentum is proving to be as important in the off-season as it is during a game, with Alexander’s return coinciding with former Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong and Northern Jets premiership player Jarrod Conway also joining the Saints’ sizeable list of signings.

North Wagga coach Kirk Hamblin acknowledged a ‘snowball’ effect at work, after they locked in former GGGM pair, Luke Walsh and Lachlan Steward, and Collingullie-Glenfield Park’s James Morris, among others.

“It’s been great. It just seems like you sign a couple of good quality players who have played a lot of first grade football and had success and it creates a pretty good flow-on effect and people want to come to the club,” Hamblin said.

Alexander spent a season at Coolamon and is likely to return to the wing at North Wagga or a role across half-back. 

“He’s obviously learnt a lot in his 12 months in the RFL and from (former Coolamon coach) Matt Hard.

“And he’s played under me before. Hopefully he can continue to develop his footy,” Hamblin said.

While Alexander will add speed, Canberra-based Conway, 29, will bring presence to his role as a key forward or defender.

“He’s been playing div 3 in Canberra (for Woden Blues). He’s a key position player and he’ll add a bit of aggression, which I think is something we’ve lacked the last couple of years,” Hamblin said. 

Conway, who’s kicked 62 goals in 54 games across the last four years at Woden, was keen to link up with his old mates, Hamblin and Walsh.

The Saints have also welcomed the return of Nathan Dowdle, who spent last year at Wagga Tigers.

“The club’s stoked to get him back. He’s been a great player and good coach for North Wagga over the years so to get him and his family back involved with the club is a positive,” Hamblin said.

Meanwhile, Stephenson’s return will be welcomed at The Rock, where he was a strong contributor during the 2016 season.

“He’s a very handy player to have in your side, that’s for sure, and he’s flying at the minute so it’s good to have him back,” TRYC coach Tom Yates said. 

“He reads it well, he’s a good kick and a pretty confident player. He’ll probably run off a back flank but he’s versatile. He could play anywhere really. He can be a key position player, as well as a utility player.”

Injuries kept Stephenson to 12 games with the Hoppers last season but Yates said he’s fit and firing at training so far.

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