Star striker Braedyn Crowley returns to the Hunter to spearhead an exciting and youthful Maitland Magpies in 2022.
Crowley, 24, was a sensation at the Magpies in 2020 scoring 17 goals from 17 matches and playing a leading role in Maitland making the grand final against Edgeworth.
He moved to Victoria last season but is back in black and white keen to lead the push for the Magpies to claim further silverware after claiming the 2019 premiership and making the 2019 and 2020 grand finals and finishing one point behind Lambton Jaffas in the Covid-shortened 2021 season.
Crowley is one of four key new signings as the Magpies prepare for life after the departure of inaugural NPL captain and multiple best and fairest Carl Thornton and dynamic attacking wing Ryan Clarke as well as midfielder Chris Fayers.
Thornton and Clarke, both 35, have signed with Valentine to play with former teammate Matt Thompson in his final season of football. They will be joined by two other former Magpies, Thornton's brother Liam and cousin Nic Cowburn.
Magpies coach Mick Bolch said moving towards the end of their careers Thornton and Clarke had wanted to reunite with their teammate and former Socceroo Matt Thompson in his final season.
"They have been great players and people for this club and we wish them all the best. We also wish Chris all the best as he tries his chances his Sydney," Bolch said.
The Magpies welcome Lambton Jaffas centre back Will McFarlane, Weston Bears midfielder Jarryd Sutherland and Broadmeadows Magic goal keeper Paul Bitz to the squad.
At 32, Bitz will add experience to the side while Sutherland and McFarlane fit into the team profile of the majority of players in the early to mid-20s.
"We have re-signed all of the young players like Jimmy Thompson, Flynn Goodman, Ty Paulson, Adam Blunden, Ty Cousins, Zach Thomas, Charlie Cox, Sean Pratt and Joey Melmeth," Bolch said of the re-signings which also include Grant Brown and Alex Read.
"I think last year we were fielding consistently the second youngest team in the comp, only Adamstown were younger.
"I had hoped to make that four or fifth place with such a young team but they came together so well and to finish just one point behind Jaffas with the chance to go better was beyond all our early expectations and we plan to build on that.
"I think the young fellas are excited about having Braedyn around. His professionalism and influence was crucial in the development of players like Jimmy Thompson.
"The combination between those two really developed in the year Crowley was with us and I think it will go to another level with Jimmy's development this season."
Thompson is one of the favourites to take out the competition's best player award after a breakout year in terms of performance and leadership.
"I think Jimmy really benefitted from Crowley's influence. He soaked up all he had to offer and I think the other young blokes are looking to do the same," Bolch said.
"With Crowley we are getting a player who averages a goal a game, but there's so much more in terms of his professionalism, leadership and how he bought into what we were trying to achieve."
The Magpies are hopeful that they will get the clearance to return to the training track in November, with players requiring double vaccinations to take part.
"After the past couple of disrupted years and the unfinished business from this year the boys are really looking forward to getting back on the track and getting ready for a new season," Bolch said.
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