Charles Sturt University have ramped up preparations for next season, bringing a key position player with Sydney Swans reserve grade experience to the Farrer League.
Joe Stapleton, who has played in the ruck for the Swans twos in the North East Australian Football League and featured at centre-half-forward or centre-half-back for Sydney University, is one of the club’s most exciting signings in recent seasons.
Having come through the Swans academy and NSW-ACT Rams programs, the 19-year-old is excited about a bold new start with the Bushpigs when he moves to Wagga to study animal science.
“At the end of this year, I was a bit over the high-level footy environment,” Stapleton said.
“I just wanted to get back to going to training and playing with one team. Playing for a few teams, you don’t really get to form the bonds with your mates and that’s why you play footy.”
Bushpigs coach Pat Noonan said Stapleton will be a key plank in their plans for next year, potentially swapping forward and in the ruck with Vas Seker.
“He’s only young but he’s been exposed to a high level of football for the last two or three years and I’m hoping that when he gets down here he’ll bring that professionalism that they have,” Noonan said.
“We’ll see in the pre-season how we’ll use him but he’ll be a big part of our structure.”
Stapleton, 197cm and 94kg, admits he’s knows little of the Farrer League but is keen to be involved in a country football league.
“That’s what I’m excited about,” Stapleton said. “Getting away from people you know and pre-conceived ideas about you, and just getting out there and enjoying footy.”
Securing a scholarship at CSU was crucial to him leaving Sydney.
“It was a toss-up but then I saw the accommodation scholarship and when I got it, that tipped my decision to come down,” he said.
For CSU, it’s reward for a couple of years of planning.
At a club without juniors, and which has struggled to compete at times in the recruitment game, securing a high-profile player through the scholarship is a win.
“We want to do what we do well, not do what other clubs do – like finding jobs (for players),” former president Tristan Robinson said.
“Having scholarships is an incentive to attract people. It’s taken a few years but we’re starting to see the results of our focus on the scholarship program.”
The university’s director of Residence Life, David Griffin, said it was an ideal partnership.
“Residence Life at CSU recognises the important role that university sports clubs play in the development of the student community on campus,” Griffin said.
“The scholarship will aid the Bushpigs to build their strengths as a club within the Farrer Football and Netball League competition and provide out-of-classroom support for Joe as he pursues his studies at CSU.”
Stapleton will begin life on campus in mid-February.
The Bushpigs hope it’s the beginning of a promising recruitment campaign for 2018.