North Central Football League club Wedderburn has signed Matt Johnston as playing assistant coach.
Johnston’s departure from Maryborough is a bitter blow for the Magpies, who have already lost Ethan Crackel, Will Short, Angus Watts, Andrew Siekai, Glen Coleman and Joel Radlof this off-season.
Johnston adds some experience and strength to Wedderburn’s young midfield group.
“Adding Matt is icing on the cake for our midfield,’’ Wedderburn coach Danny Benaim said of Johnston’s arrival.
“We still have a lot of younger bodies in our midfield, so to add someone with size and maturity is going to help us out a lot.
“His experience off the field is going to be just as important to us as on the field.”
Johnston’s most two recent coaches at BFNL level – Shane Skontra (Maryborough) and Darryl Wilson (Strathfieldsaye) – are as good as it gets in country football and Benaim expects his new assistant coach to draw on some ideas from his former mentors.
“Our list has been really young the last few years, so we’ve probably lacked a few leaders,’’ Benaim said.
“Matt’s experience with Strathfieldsaye and Maryborough is going to help. He has some fresh ideas and he’s really keen to work with our younger players.
“The ideas Matt will bring are going to be top shelf for us.”
Johnston’s signature caps a successful off-season for the Redbacks.
Star full-forward Sam Barnes and midfielder Jaran McKay are back at the club after a successful stint with North Bendigo.
Benalla midfielder Jayden Jones, former Swan Hill duo Will Byrnes and Declan Quinn and Tommy Hughes from Golden Square have committed to the Redbacks.
Key position duo Jake DeAraugo and Will Holt will return to action after their 2017 seasons were ruined by long-term injuries.
“Most of our recruits are aged in that 21-30 age bracket which is what we were hoping to add to our list,’’ Benaim said.
“Everyone is really keen to have a big pre-season.”