Leeton-Whitton’s new coach, Jade Hodge, said the promise shown by the club’s youngsters was a big factor in his decision to return to the Crows.
And in his first senior coaching role, he’s promising to put some quality footballers around them.
Hodge spent two seasons at the club in 2008 and 2009 before plying his trade in Tasmania and Western Australia.
Part of the original ‘Tasmanian connection’ – which also brought Bryce O’Garey and Ben Curley to Leeton – Hodge has stayed in touch with the Crows fortunes.
“I made a few lifelong friends there and I’m really looking forward to it,” Hodge said.
“I’ve never coached out on my own before – I’ve been an assistant for quite a few years – but I’ll be taking a few boys with me.”
One of those is Josh Grant, a 22-year old key position player who represented Tasmania at under 18 level.
“He was a ruckman when I was at Glenorchy but he’s been at centre half back and he does a really good job so that’s pretty exciting,” Hodge said.
“He’s 22, six-foot-six and runs like a midfielder and you don’t get too many guys like that.”
Hodge said he’s also in talks with another player with Tasmanian state league experience.
“It’s the top league there, it’s a really good competition and he could play anywhere from key forward to key back or you could even run him through the midfield,” he said.
Hodge hopes their recruitment drive will allow the Crows to get the best out of Curley and O’Garey and the re-signing of Canberra-based Toby Conroy, Michael Wescombe, Cam Griggs and Neil Irwin gives them plenty of experience.
But it’s the youth he’s excited about, after a mid-season visit showed him the potential at the Crows.
“The kids were the best thing that I took out of it when I was down there last time, they showed a lot of promise,” Hodge said.
“Another year in senior footy under their belt is going to help as well so it’s pretty exciting times.”
The Crows finished third this year but bowed out after consecutive finals losses to Wagga Tigers and eventual premiers, Collingullie-Glenfield Park.
Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes and Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong are the only Riverina League clubs still to lock in their coaching plans for 2016.
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