Maitland Pickers coach Luke Dorn was a happy man when prized recruits Tyrone Amey and Sam Anderson signed for the 2019 season.
The prop pairing will be vital ingredients in the Pickers formula for success in 2019 as Maitland prepares for their next campaign without the experience of Dorn and Dane Tilse on the field.
With financial stability and facilities equal to the best in the competition, Dorn and the Pickers recruiters know they have an attractive package to lure other potential top-line players to the club.
But, Dorn is equally excited about the young talent coming through the ranks and the return of dynamic utility Jarrod Smith and several other youngsters including back-rower Pat Robards and former under-19 captain Reeve Howard after they missed most or all of last season.
Dorn said losing Smith to a knee injury had been a major blow to the Pickers after he assumed an almost running-back role behind first-choice hooker Adam Clydsdale.
“With Adam coming into the side we weren’t quite sure how we were going to play Smithy, but their combination was fantastic for us until he went down with the knee injury,” he said.
Also read: Clydsdale wins Pickers player of year award
Robards a regular first grader and Howard, who made his first grade debut in 2017, both effectively missed last season and add depth to the squad as the Pickers look to progress from their elimination final loss in 2019.
“Getting Sam and Tyrone on board was our main recruiting objective, we are still in the market for any quality players but I think we had the basis of a strong squad last year,” Dorn said.
“We’ve just about signed everyone from last year and I think the young players coming through are really exciting.
“There are a number of players from the under-19 premiership side that I think will push for first grade selection along with some very good boys in our reserves.
“I’m really excited about young Jeremy Gibson who made his debut this year. He is a great kid and a real talent and I think he showed lots when we ran him through the halves.”
Dorn said he was looking forward to coaching from the sidelines and be able to devote his full attention to players during the pre-season.
“I had fantastic support and that will still be there for me to call on, but it can be difficult being a player-coach,” he said.
“I think I realised it in the pre-season when you can’t watch all the sessions and pick up on things to help the players as you have to take part as well for your own fitness.
“I learned a lot and like the boys I will need to improve individually going forward for us to take the next step next year. We made a good start, but it is only a start and we need to get better individually and as a team.”