By Peter (Parra) Montgomery
The Hay Magpies Rugby League Club has shown it is determined to make a mark in the 2013 Group 20 season.
The Club finalised its First Grade coaching for the new season with Moe Clune and Club “Player of the Century” Neil John Nisbet appointed as co-coaches.
Clune is returning to the Club after sitting out the 2012 season due to work commitments, and his return adds size to the Magpies forwards.
Nisbet has six Group 17 first grade premierships to his credit with the Magpies – the most of any coach in the former Group’s history, and for the past three seasons turned the Magpies League Tag team into a very competitive unit – with two Grand Final appearances and a top 2 finish in the other.
The Club has also embarked on a strong pre-season recruitment of top quality players to assist with the development of the outstanding talent in its ranks.
Topping the list is former NSW Residents prop Aaron Sweeney, who agreed to terms earlier this week.
Sweeney is expected to add muscle and size which has been lacking in previous years.
Sweeney attained ‘cult hero’ in the two State Cup competitions, first with Ipswich Jets when he was the recipient of the “Allan Langer Medal” for best player in the Club – back to back in 2007 - 2008.
He made it into the Brisbane Bronco’s top 25 under coach Ivan Henjak, where the Club saw him as a possible replacement for Test prop Petero Civonciva who had moved to Penrith.
Aaron trialled with Penrith in 2010 and played with Windsor Wolves, before being picked up by Western Suburbs Magpies and playing in that competition in 2011 and 2012.
The Western Suburbs Magpies Website posted at the start of the 2012 season
‘Sweeney enjoys a cult like following in the two state open-age competitions. He was thought to have headed back to Ipswich to compete in the QLD Cup but Trevor Schodel and the Western Suburbs Club were able to convince him to stay and anchor their young forward pack throughout season 2012.
As hard as granite rock, Sweeney will need to produce some of the form which saw him selected in the 2010 NSW Residents side which defeated Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
Sweeney’s passion on field and on the training paddock can’t be questioned and Schodel will hope some of his enthusiasm will rub off on his team mates.’
Aaron is 28, and plays at 110kg.
Early negotiations for Sweeney were carried out by former Magpies coach Ken Beissel who saw him dominate for Ipswich in the Queensland Cup competition.
"Players were going to the other side of the ruck to get away from him. He is lethal in defence and he is sure to become a 'cult hero' with the Magpies fans also", Beissel said.
Sweeney will join Co coach Moe Clune in the Magpies front row.
An interesting recruit for the Club is Rugby Union player Shae Tamati, who had a couple of games with the Club at the end of the 2012 season
Shae is highly credential player in Rugby Union, being the All Black (New Zealand) hooker in the World Cup winning side of 2009/2010.
The “New Zealand Herald” rated Shae as a likely contender for the All Blacks hooking spot for the 2015 World Cup
“Highly mobile and a skilled ball player, Tamati is small for a modern hooker (22, 1.75m, 96kg) but then so was Mealamu when he started out. He has excellent ball skills and speed and is well suited to the running game. He was a New Zealand under-20 world champion in 2009-10.”
Shae is a country boy and enjoys the country life. He spent a good part of 2012 season playing Rugby in the United States
The Club has also regained the services of prop/second rower Will Sullivan, the Club’s Player of the Year in its first two seasons in Group 20 – 2007, 2008.
Will is a noted try scorer with a great work ethic and is a handy pick up.
He is at home in the forwards, and would not be out of place in the backline.
Will crossed for five tries in one game for the Magpies, and certainly knows his way to the try line.
Big Lachlan Mussing will make his return to Rugby League after a couple of years off.
He had a shoulder re construction in 2011, and sat out 2012 season, to give him self time to fully recover and settle into his job the police force.
He is a regular at the Hay gym, and looks almost ready to get his 185cm, 98kg frame onto the field now.
Mussing was a member of the Penrith Panthers Development squad after being recruited from his hometown of Katoomba.
He had a first grade trial with the Panthers against Parramatta at Port Macquarie at the start of 2009 after playing a starring role over the British Amateur Rugby League touring side, scoring two tries, but played mainly Toyota Cup (with Solo Alone) before being injured.
The Club is confident of snaring the signature of a former English Super League back who played against the Melbourne Storm in England in 2010 – a trial match for the World Super Club Challenge.
He is coming to Hay on Hay Cup Race Day to have a look around the place.
He played Rugby Union in Sydney this season, scoring a total of 76 points, which included 13 tries, and 3 penalty goals and a conversion. He was the Club’s second highest try scorer, and its third highest point scorer
At Academy level in the English Super League he was a double winner picking up the Top Try Scorer and Player's Player awards.
Magpies Club President, Bert Matthews, said the new recruits have added an air of expectations around the town.
"We had a go in 2012, but lacked the physical size to compete against the strong Clubs.
"We have identified our problems, and are confident the blokes we are bringing in will assist the young talent we have in the Club to fulfil their potential - and there are plenty of good players just waiting to get a solid platform.
“The younger blokes like Mitch Rosser, Pat Miller, Harley Hey, Lloyd Schulz, John Payne, John Weymouth have a couple of seasons of First Grade behind them and will be better for that experience, while the experienced guys like Jermaine Dixon, Tuck McLean, Simon Parr, Shayne and Damian Kennedy, Jamie Woods will relish the opportunity to play in a team with size’.
Mr Matthews said he has been very impressed in his dealings with the new guys.
"Aaron came down for our Presentation Night for a look around the place, and liked what he saw. He is a professional, and all our enquiries have revealed that he trains hard and plays hard, and that is exactly what we are looking for", Mr Matthews said.
"Shae Tamati has impressed all and sundry since he arrived in town. He is nuggetty and pretty quick around the field, and the good thing for the Club is that he is a fitness trainer, so we utilise him well.
"Lachie Mussing told us at the start of 2012 that he would sit out the season to allow him to settle into his job in the police force. He is a big bloke, with a good background, and we are looking forward to seeing him on the field.
He is only a young bloke, and looks very impressive" the President said.
"Will is a much loved former Magpie - the Club's Player of the Year in 2007, 2008 before moving to Wagga and having a season with SouthCity Bulls.
"He is returning to Hay with his employment, and the Club is very happy to have him back. One thing for sure, Will can play the game" Mr Matthews concluded.
The Magpies only loss at this stage is lightweight forward Craig Millan who is transferring to the Southern Highlands for family reasons.
The popular Millan gave the Club outstanding service in his two years with the Magpies, winning the Player of the Year in 2011, and giving 100% effort in every match, even filling in as prop when the need arose.
Magpie supporters will get the opportunity to meet the new players at a 'meet and greet' get together at the Hay Park Community Building on Friday, November 23.
Everyone is invited.
The Club has indicated that it will be giving consideration to playing in the West Wyalong Pre-Season knockout Carnival held in February.
Co-coach Neil John Nisbet said that training will determine places in the team first-up.
"Everyone starts on an equal footing. My philosphy to coaching is what you put in on the training paddock, is usually followed up on on match day.
"Training will be tough, but that is how it has to be if we are to be successful', the Little General said.