East Wagga-Kooringal have had a massive lift on the eve of the season with impressive former Griffith midfielder Heath Northey to join the Farrer League club.
Northey has family links to Wagga from his time at the Swans and is happy to have another crack at football in the Riverina.
In a triple bonus for the Hawks, two teammates who will bring size to EWK are coming with him, having tested the waters in a pre-season game against Narrandera last week.
Northey was a key figure in Griffith's grand final campaigns of 2018 and 2019.
He played 45 games for the Swans from 2017 to 2019, was in their best in the majority of them, and averaged 11 goals a season.
Since heading back to Sydney, he's played 14 games with Randwick in their last two COVID-seasons and was in their best in all but one.
"We're pretty happy to get someone of Heath's calibre, ability and leadership. He's a quality person... all three of them are," EWK coach Matt Hard said.
"He showed up last week and found enough of the footy to show that he can still play, that's for sure."
Wilson Thomas is a ruck/forward who's played in northern NSW and in Sydney and may ease the workoad on Kyle North-Flanagan while Jeremiah Lenisaurua is another big body who doesn't have the same experience but the Hawks see as a project player with plenty of potential in defence.
The Hawks aren't narrowing down their options for Northey at this stage, knowing he can also present a dangerous option up forward.
Hard was thrilled to have the three commit just two weeks out from a massive season opening fixture at Marrar.
"It is exciting. They came down last week and met the boys and enjoyed it," he said.
"First and foremost we're chasing quality people and they all tick that box. We're stoked that they're all good fellas and fitted in really well.
"It's definitely given our boys a bit of a spark.
"But we don't put too much expectation on them. It's completely different footy and they've all played different standards. But it's good."
He found enough of the footy to show he can still play.- Matt Hard on Heath Northey
The new trio won't play in EWK's second pre-season hit out against Griffith on Saturday however Nico Sedgwick is due to make his first appearance.
The arrivals at Gumly help counter key departures including Alex Rogers, Ben Absolum, Ben Cadzow, Tim Smith while Nick Hull is unlikely this year.
Key forward Jarrad Boumann hasn't featured in their pre season yet.
"He's been working away in Melbourne a fair bit and I don't think we'll see him until after Easter," Hard said.
A comfortable win against Narrandera in their first run was a positive for the coach while backman Nathan Scott and league medallist Harry Fitzsimmons picked up where they left off last year.
"I was happy with our style of footy and I didn't think our fitness was too bad which is what you're looking for in these early games," Hard said, of a team without a host of players including North-Flanagan, Trent Garner, the three McCarthy brothers, Nic Curran, Tom Pocock and Jarrod Turner.
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