INGLEWOOD coach Ryan McNish expects to have a deeper list at his disposal this year, with the Blues’ number of arrivals far outweighing their departures.
The Blues have been a perennial battler in the Loddon Valley league since last making finals in 2003 and have claimed seven of the past eight wooden spoons, but that hasn’t stopped the club from being able to attract a host of new faces for its 2019 campaign.
“Our first priority was to retain 90 to 95 per cent of our list from last year and we’ve been able to do that on top of being able to bring in quite a few new players,” McNish said on Wednesday.
“We’ve got Brae Mensforth coming on board after he won Campbells Creek’s best and fairest last year.
“He attacks the ball really well, has a bit of height and some good pace and will play a rebounding role off half-back for us.
“We see him as a good replacement for Shane Harris, who has gone to North Bendigo.”
As well as Mensforth, the Blues have added on-baller Kaleb Kennedy from Campbells Creek as well.
The Blues’ recruits also include a wealth of premiership experience with the addition of veteran Hayden Polglase.
Polglase was one of the 11 Wedderburn players who played in all the Redbacks’ string of four North Central league premierships in a row from 2011 to 2014.
Polglase, who spent last year with Hay in the Golden Rivers league, will be a playing assistant coach for the Blues.
“He has won a lot of premierships throughout his career, so he’s going to be really good for our group with that experience he will bring,” McNish said.
Also joining the Blues is Chris McKay, who played eight senior games for Goulburn Valley league club Shepparton Swans last year before an ankle injury ended his season.
McKay is the older brother of Peter McKay, who was one Inglewood’s most consistent performers last season.
“Chris is a versatile key position player… he’s around the six-foot-three mark who we will look to use at centre half-forward and centre half-back,” McNish said.
“He’s a mobile player and also really good at ground level.”
Fellow signing Jake Cowman from Violet Town will also add to the Blues’ height.
“He’s a full-forward who can also play in the ruck,” McNish said.
The Blues have also added Connor Logan from Eaglehawk and Kane Newton, who has previously played at Drouin.
“We’ll look for Kane to pinch-hit a bit off half-back and we think he can be a bit of an X-factor for us; he’s lightning quick with a great set of hands,” McNish said.
Not all of Inglewood’s recruiting, though, features players preparing for their first season at the club, with ruckman Lachlan Sidebottom returning.
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Sidebottom played five games with the Blues last year before putting in a mid-season clearance and going on to play in Tallygaroopna's Kyabram District league premiership team.
“Sidey is back and fully committed. He hasn’t missed a training yet and is looking great, so it’s great to have him back,” McNish said.
As well as the return of Sidebottom, another major plus for the Blues will be getting Brandon Worner, who hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury midway through 2017, back out on the field.
“Getting Brandon back from a knee reconstruction is huge and just like another recruit for us. He only played half-a-season in 2017 and was runner-up in the best and fairest,” McNish said.
The three departures from the Blues feature their top two from the best and fairest last year in young gun Bailey Evans, who is playing in Geelong, and Shane Harris, who has signed with North Bendigo, as well as Tate Mifka.
The Blues play practice matches against Murrabit on March 2 and Nullawil on March 23.
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