The Daily Advertiser’s top 10 player clearances of the off-season
With the 2020 season at an unprecedented standstill, The Daily Advertiser explores the 10 biggest clearances of the AFL Riverina off-season.
Nick Ryan – Wagga Tigers to East Wagga-Kooringal
A good player making a switch between the Riverina and Farrer Leagues always attracts attention so imagine the sensation when it is the reigning premiership captain that makes the move.
The Hawks successfully managed to lure Nick Ryan away from Robertson Oval, just six weeks after he held the premiership trophy aloft when Tigers clinched the Riverina League premiership.
There will be no surprises when Ryan quickly establishes himself as one of the Farrer League’s elite, with his ability to put his head over the ball and win contested footy, along with his skills and knack for kicking goals, a feature of his game.
Ryan will be a major player in East Wagga-Kooringal’s quest to win their second Farrer League flag in the four years.
James Lawton – Mansfield to Marrar
The path from the Goulburn Valley League to Langtry Oval is not one often travelled.
But James Lawton is not your average footballer.
The Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong junior announced his return to the Riverina when signing with the Bombers in February.
One of the greatest talents in country football, Lawton was looking for a fresh start and it was his close relationship with Bombers coach Shane Lenon that landed him at Marrar.
A controversial character, Lawton has the ability to set the Farrer League alight and will provide a much-needed key forward option for the Bombers.
Tom Faul – Canberra Demons to Temora
Temora caught the football world by surprise when it announced the signing of three Canberra footballers in February.
It did not take long to figure out that one of them, by the name of Tom Faul, is one the Farrer League will not be forgetting any time soon.
Faul, at 23, retired from the NEAFL last September after six seasons in the competition. He returned 38 goals over the past two seasons and it was his ability to do freakish things had him under the eye of AFL clubs as a teenager.
A key forward of note, that has the ability to play anywhere, has been tipped by some good judges to prove an excitement machine at Temora.
Sam Darley – North Hobart to Leeton-Whitton*
*Technically, the clearance is still to arrive, but the Crows announced the signing of former AFL player Sam Darley back in November.
As quickly as the signing was announced, it was shot down in flames by Darley’s club North Hobart, who revealed he still had another year to serve on his contract.
Much confusion followed, especially with Darley having posed for a photo with a Crows jumper, alongside club officials, when visiting Leeton only days earlier.
The situation, as it stands, was that Daley was going to play a handful of games for Leeton-Whitton, when North Hobart had the bye, but who knows how that will play out after coronavirus.
What we do know is that Darley is a gun and would be virtually in a league of his own in the Riverina. He played 20 AFL games, captained Richmond’s VFL team to a grand final and spent a year as captain-coach of North Shore in the Geelong Football League. Still only 26, Darley won the best and fairest at North Hobart last year.
Jayden Klemke – West Adelaide to Collingullie-Glenfield Park
It’s not every day that a two-time Jim Quinn Medallist and four-time club best and fairest returns home.
But Collingullie-Glenfield Park welcomed back Jayden Klemke with open arms in February after he settled on a return to Crossroads Oval.
Klemke had ventured off to the SANFL but the venture only lasted a matter of minutes after he tore his ACL in the opening round.
The dynamic on-baller was not set to return to the field until June, but the season postponement means Klemke should be right to go for round one, whenever that proves to be.
Conlan brothers – Griffith to Albury Tigers
The rumour mill had been in full swing that the Conlan brothers were attracting interest from clubs across the country, but it still came by surprise when their move to Albury was announced on November 1.
The Ovens and Murray League powerhouse announced the signing of Jacob and Lucas Conlan (pictured) just six weeks after the Swans suffered their second straight grand final defeat.
The announcement was a bad finish to a horror week for the Swans, where Jordan Iudica (Queanbeyan) and Guy Orton’s (Coleambally) defection had also been made official.
Both key position players, aged 20 and 17 at the time, the Griffith pair were arguably the most promising players in the region.
Collins brothers – UNSW-Eastern Suburbs to Mangoplah-CUE
When MCUE coach Jeremy Rowe announced the homecoming of Harry and Matt Collins, it was the final missing piece in the Goannas’ premiership puzzle.
The return of the Collins brothers was the moment that suddenly the Goannas had leapt into premiership calculations.
After a busy off-season up until that point, the Goannas successfully convinced the Collins brothers to travel back from Sydney each week to reunite with the club.
Harry, a gun midfielder, had been part of back-to-back premierships in Sydney, while Matt is a valuable key position player for MCUE.
Guy Orton – Griffith to Coleambally
The two-time Jim Quinn Medallist surprised many when he announced his move to Coleambally last October.
Orton became the latest Swan to hit Kidman Way to Coleambally after a decorated career at Griffith.
While getting towards the end of his career now, the move still came as a surprise given his involvement at Griffith throughout his time there. Not only did Orton coach the Swans, he was also Riverina League’s representative coach for two seasons.
Ben Absolum – East Wagga-Kooringal to Collingullie-Glenfield Park
Ben Absolum caught many by surprise when he decided to return to Crossroads Oval for 2020.
Absolum had been Hawks captain for the past five years and most expected he would see out his playing days at his junior club.
But the Demons successfully lured Absolum back to potentially finish his career where he started out his senior footy and went on to become a premiership player.
He will slot in nicely across half-back and provide great leadership.
Tom Keogh – Wagga Tigers to Mangoplah-CUE
Tom Keogh’s move to Wagga Tigers was arguably the biggest move of the 2019 off-season and 12 months on, he has returned to Mangoplah Sportsground.
Keogh made the tough decision to leave MCUE last year, citing the attraction of playing with his family for a season too hard to resist.
Twelve months and one Tigers flag later, Keogh has returned to the Goannas and looms as a major player in the club’s quest to break its premiership drought.
Article first published by Matt Malone for the Daily Advertiser