After a long offseason and some handy picks ups, the Tumut Blues look to be a genuine premiership contender in the Group 9 Weissel Cup competition.
Coached by Tumbarumba’s Jon Burgun, and calling on a handful of representative players, the under 18s will no doubt push competition heavyweights, Young and Brothers.
Burgun said the first week back at training had been full of energy as his young side prepared for a shortened season after a long time away from playing.
“It’s good to be back into things; it’s been a long seven months and the footy will bring everyone back together,” Burgun said.
“The lads have trained awesome since the resumption, with enthusiasm and good numbers at each session.
“Everyone is keen to come together and do their best for the club and in memory of their teammate, Ethan (Day).”
In stark contrast to last season, which saw Burgun dealing with limited playing numbers in the Sullivan Cup competition, the Blues will have strong numbers to call upon this year, along with some key pick-ups.
“Most of last year’s squad have returned with only Corbyn Oddy, Will Booby and Darcy Brennan unavailable,” Burgun said.
“New players into the squad are Luke Stuenkel, Jamie Hibbens, Ethan Dutton, Josh Kell and Tom Denson.
“Preston Fuller joins us from Albury Thunder and Mitch Glynn from Batlow, who will add value in the forwards.
“We are hoping to have Hunter Lee in the outside backs but he hasn’t made training yet (but) things are looking healthy with a 22-man squad.”
After just missing the finals last season, the Blues coach believes this year’s chances will be defined by the efforts on the training paddock and the associated competition for key roles within the squad.
“Reflecting on last season, I think we underachieved and our training let us down,” Burgun said.
“The boys have started this preparation in much different fashion, which we are keen to see continue (and) some competition for spots will be healthy and will see everyone push themselves.”
Burgun admitted that in 2019, key players were left with a lot of responsibility and he hoped to change things this season.
“I would like to see our attack expand away from being one dimensional, with lots of second phase and our attacking players getting more ball,” Burgun said.
“We need less reliance on our dominant players to allow them more energy to make more impact on crucial play.”
One player that should help take pressure off the likes of Ethan Gilchrist, Jordy Maher, Will Casey and Jack Hillier, is former Gundagai Tiger, Luke Stuenkel.
Stuenkel, who can play in a variety of roles, was one of the standouts for Batlow in the recent Tumut Pub 9s and was looking forward to being back in Blue colours.
“I grew up playing for Tumut. I’ve won four premierships playing for this club in the minor league and would love one in the 18s,” Stuenkel said.
When asked what he would bring to the team, Stuenkel was focusing effort and enthusiasm.
“Mainly just effort! Putting in for the boys and trying to get the job done week in, week out,” Stuenkel said.
When asked if the Blues could go all the way, Stuenkel said it would fall back on the efforts of the players now, during what is a very short preseason.
“I think we have as much of a chance as anyone. It is just about training hard like we have been until we get to round one and then hopefully go all the way,” Stuenkel said.