The Tumut Blues reserve grade side is doing their best to lose the unwanted tag as the competition whipping boys, after consecutive seasons rooted to the bottom of the Group 9 reserve grade competition.
In somewhat of a coup for the young side, four-time Blues premiership winner, Matt Richards, will turn out in reserve grade.
The 37-year-old was a core member of Tumut’s premiership winning side’s during the previous decade, and will hope to bring some experience to the team.
“To be honest, there was a heap of us talking about coming back and we had a few keen but as it happens, that amount died off after the season finished,” Richards said.
“I already committed and I am pretty keen to play and I hope a few of the other boys decide to come back.”
Richards, who apart from one game under Matt Srama a few years ago; stopped playing seven years ago and was drawn back to the game through his involvement with the Oriental Colts in the Tumut Pub 9s and his love of the game.
“I’ve just missed footy every year since I have stopped playing. Playing the 9s gets you keen and I just wanted to help this season and with it being only eight games, I think I should be able to get through that pretty easily,” Richards said.
The veteran did joke it was a little bit of a wake-up call after the first week of training, especially with reserve grade training alongside first grade.
“I was a little sore on Friday after our session last Thursday and all the running, but I’ll get back into it,” Richards laughed.
The Blues will also have another handy player stepping out in reserve grade this year in the form of youngster, Jack Dean.
Dean, who has battled multiple knee injuries, got through the recent Tumut Pub 9s with flying colours for the Bowlie Bears and is now focusing on getting through a few games injury free, starting with reserve grade.
“At this stage, I will be playing reggies, I need to get a few games under my belt and confidence to be where I need to be,” Dean said.
“If the opportunity presents itself (to play first grade), I’d take it but I’m happy to just being back playing footy.”
Dean believes Richards will add a lot of depth to the side, and hopes he can learn a thing or two, whilst also contributing to the team himself.
“I think Richo is a big increase to the depth we need in our backline and will be a great role model and influencer for the team,” Dean said.
“I look forward to playing with him and learning off him. I’d like to think I can offer something to the table throughout what I have learnt in my years of playing.”
One man that is very happy to see both Richards and Dean back playing this season is reserve captain/coach, Mitchell Smith.
“They just add experience, class and leadership; they are the big qualities they both bring to the side and they should be able to help guide us around the park,” Smith said.
Smith commented that Richards still looked as sharp as ever in the most recent Tumut Pub 9s and believes he will make an instant impact for his young side.
“I think his form with the Ori was really good and that means he will slot straight into the side despite having had a couple of years away from the game,” Smith said.
The hard-working lock, who coached the Blues reserve grade side to two wins in 2019, after going winless in 2018; said that his team was certainly going to compete in 2020 and hoped that the years of losing were behind them.
“I reckon we can match a lot of the top teams, especially adding Richo (Matt Richards), Deany (Jack Dean), Jack Bulger and a few of the more experienced boys,” Smith said.
Smith did put the hard word on his players to make training ahead of the season though, with mixed numbers in the first week back, and first grade eyeing off the odd player as they address depth issues.
“We need all the boys on board, it’s only four weeks untill we kick off and we need to be fit and ready,” Smith said.
“We will be training Wednesdays and Fridays until the season starts and once we kick off, we will do a club training session one night and our own session another night.”