Northampton Rams will hope recruits can help them sustain pace in possible finals charge
Northampton sit pretty in the top four in the Great Northern Football League and look a near-certainty for just their fifth finals tilt this century.
A sustained charge by the Rams would be welcome after a trend of below-par performances by the league’s country sides since the turn of the millennium, aside from when Mullewa got their act together.
It’s not a distant dream — more likely it’s a tribute to the power of recruitment. A quality player or two can make a difference.
Northampton found that out in 2004, the last time they won a premiership, with a great win over favourites Towns.
They’d picked up a quality midfielder in Darryl Hagan, or rather, he turned up the year before with his work as a policeman.
They’d also recruited Paul Pirrottina, a long-kicking forward, from Towns.
Existing players such as Chris Sullivan, Wes and Simon Teakle, Jamie Drage, and Terry Jennings played brilliantly and, after losing the grand final in 2003 to Towns, they were hungry.
They look hungry this year — after all, in this century they’ve only played in four finals series.
They finished a distant fifth last season but right now are 12 points ahead of fifth-placed Towns and two points off Rovers and Railways, who share the lead on points.
The difference to last season is marked, but it’s nothing complicated. Beau Walker has shone as player/coach and former AFL star Harry Taylor is back with his boyhood team — though it should be remembered he actually played league for Rovers.
Flynn Dillon has joined from Railways — a sure mark with top-notch disposals.
Trent Simpson, the kind of player who will run through walls, is back from injury.
There’s another rule of thumb in football, which is 50 games tends to make a footballer in that he knows his role and his limitations. It’s hard to say how many of Norths’ side are hitting that magic mark this season but with young teams across the league, a generation coming of age at the same time can make a difference.
It’s early days, being a June contender isn’t worth much more than being talked about in April or May but the Rams are clearly much improved.
Can they keep it up for the long haul?
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