A premiership player returning to bolster their backline and a promising victory against Riverina League opposition in their first pre-season hit out have North Wagga hopeful of big things ahead in 2022.
Saints' centre-half-back of 2019, Lachlan Robertson, is back after a season in the Northern Riverina League last year.
The defender is set to be used in the same role this year and was impressive in a comfortable practice match victory against Narrandera last weekend.
North Wagga coach Cayden Winter was rapt to welcome him home.
"Obviously he's a premiership player at our club and it's important to get those people back to your club, where they sort of belong," Winter said.
"He's had a massive pre season, looking very fit, and from the trial match we had at the weekend, I think he's an even better player than he was when he last played.
Robertson, who had a year at Turvey Park in 2018, was an important player in North Wagga's breakthrough 2019 season, performing strongly on some of the key forwards in the competition.
He's rapt to be back at McPherson Oval after the Lake Cargelligo product had a season with Hillston last year, to play under a good mate.
"It's good. I was keen to get back and play with a few of the boys," Robertson said.
"Last year was good, something different. It's a good, tough comp. We made the grand final but that's when COVID shut it down and we didn't get to play.
"It felt good (to play against Narrandera). I'm enjoying being back around the boys and I'm keen to get back into the real thing."
North Wagga beat Narrandera by around six goals in their hit out, with key forward Nathan Dennis having a big game, kicking six himself from at least 10 scoring shots, and teenager Jackson Connolly catching the eye with a great game on a wing.
The talk at the Saints is that it's the best pre-season they've had for many years and Robertson hopes that positive feeling carries right through the season.
"2019 was great, that's the best year of footy I've ever had. It's good to be back with the boys and there's a good feeling. Hopefully we get to have another crack at it this year," he said.
Winter has been rapt in the attitude he's seen so far, and the numbers, admitting he's set a brutal pre-season program and his players have lapped it up.
He felt that contributed against Narrandera.
"The boys played really well. Our fitness was right up there compared to the last couple of years and the way we moved the footy was a testament to how we've been training," Winter said.
One major drawback was a bad head clash involving new ruckman Matt Parks late in the game.
He'll be given time to recover and with round one just three weeks away, Parks could be in danger of missing the start of the season when North Wagga travels to Ardlethan to take on the Northern Jets.
The Jets have also welcomed the return of Kane Flack for this season.
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