THE Leitchville-Gunbower Bombers look set to go from the bottom of the Heathcote District Football League to flag contenders after recruiting three guns from Violet Town in the Kyabram District Football League.
In a massive coup, the Bombers have signed full-forward Craig Whelan, who booted 168 goals last season, plus midfielders – KDFL best-and-fairest Russell Lee and Jake Williams, who was best on ground in the grand final.
“Early on in the piece we were aiming to make finals, realistically now picking up these three other fellas that’s really in our sights now, if not pushing for the top three,” new Bombers coach Marty Shadbolt said yesterday.
“We’re not going to go and say we’re flag favourites or anything, we’re happy with the blokes we’ve picked up and with what we have we should be thereabouts.”
Whelan, in particular, is sure to create headlines following a stunning KDFL season which was highlighted by an incredible haul of 34 goals against Ardmona.
The full-forward booted 10 goals or more in eight of his 18 matches.
“I think a couple of sides over there are pretty ordinary, but to kick 34 that’s a lot kicks and a lot of goals, obviously,” Shadbolt said.
“A bloke actually likened him to Weeksy (Bendigo Football League record-breaking goalkicker Grant Weeks) a bit.
“He’s not a massively tall fella, but he’s too quick for a big fella to play on him, but he’s too strong and a good mark for a smaller, athletic kind of player to play on him.
“A bit like Weeksy, he’s a tough match up.”
Along with the three Melbourne-based players, Leitchville-Gunbower FNC has lured Strathfieldsaye ruckman Cam Ross and half-forward Ryan Eastman.
That’s on top of already picking up Shadbolt, Cam Carter from Calivil United, ex-WAFL player Jye Keath, key position player Troy Parker and returning Bendigo Pioneer Joel Donehue.
“What we’ve picked up are all genuine, good senior players, so we’re looking reasonably strong at this stage on paper,” Shadbolt said.
“On top of those blokes a couple of key blokes had injuries last year.
“Kade Merlo only played a couple of games and he’s recommitted.
“With the kids winning the flag last year in the thirds with another year under their belt we should have a mix of youth and experience and some bigger bodies.”
Leitchville-Gunbower only won one game last season and is yet to play finals in the HDFL after joining from the Central Murray Football League three seasons ago.
However, Shadbolt denied the Bombers were breaking the bank to make finals in 2013.
“We are spending more than they might have the past couple of years, but we’re not going out of control at an unsustainable kind of level,” he said.
“We haven’t gone overboard and trying to buy a premiership, we picked up the players we reckoned we needed and we wanted to develop the good kids coming through as well.
“It’s put a bit of a buzz around the town, there’s people getting excited now.
“Probably since they’ve come into the Heathcote league they’ve been a bit disappointing from where they thought they’d be, so we think we’ve got the right mix now to get us back playing finals footy.”