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On the eve of their training camp to the Bellarine Peninsula and three-game practice match

phase, the Mooroopna Cats have announced their 2023 Leading Group.

MATT DEANE returns for his fifth year as Captain, ably supported by his returning Vice Captain, BEN HICKS. “Matt and Ben have done a great job in leading the playing group since I have arrived at the Club.”, Senior Football Coach John Lamont remarked. “They have absorbed a lot of change, embraced it, kept moving forward and brought others along. Importantly, their individual games have continued to improve and there is further scope for their play to go to another level. The responsibility of leading has not detracted from their play.”, Lamont added.

“Matt was a massive loss to our midfield group when he was injured late in 2022 missing the finals, and Hicksy had a super consistent year with external recognition coming from the media with his selection in the Shepp News GV 2022 Team of the Year.”

Since formalising the player-voted Most Valuable Player Award into the Jono Odgers Memorial Trophy, Matt and Ben have been the first two recipients. Further evidence of the behavioral traits that are so important to what the Mooroopna Football Department are trying to achieve.

Matt is looking forward to Season 2023 with optimism, “Leading this playing group and our club is a huge honour for me. I’ve been lucky to do it for a while now and I cherish every moment. I think our team will improve on last year’s effort and continue to develop under the guidance of our coaching group.” Hicksy looks forward to “…bringing a hard brand of footy, whilst providing support, guidance and leadership to the playing group.” He too is positive about the year ahead. “We will give our all, week in, week out! The results will look after themselves!”, he added.

CHRIS NIELD returns to the MFNC Senior Leadership Group in 2023. His input being of strong value to the wider playing list. “Nield is an interesting proposition!”, Lamont said. “Obviously he can play, being a GV representative player and dual Best and Fairest winner at our club, but his leadership qualities are somewhat untapped. Chris just goes about his business and is an extremely good player as we all know, but his ability to lead and influence others is something that both he, and his colleagues, want to see really develop.”

When asked what he hopes to bring to the new year of footy, Nieldy didn’t hold back. “I’ll bring unrelenting pressure from start to finish. Our team will receive reward for effort and have no regrets!” With a glint in his eye, he added, “I’m good for 82 goals by the finals!”

Rounding out the five-man leading group are RORY HUGGARD and DOM GUGLIOTTI, both Mooroopna juniors who have been elevated for 2023. “Rory and Dom have been stand-out individuals since I arrived. For young players, the way they have gone about their football and their commitment to the club, and their team-mates, has been outstanding.”, Lamont said.

“They are both still on the ‘launch-pad’ of becoming really good GV players, but they too

have absorbed the changes and the direction we are taking. Their playing, development and

leading skills are intertwined. They work hard, direct others, ask relevant questions and

give their best. Both have had injuries and have needed to show resilience to come through the other side, which they have done. I’m looking forward to seeing how they mature into the role. They don’t need to do anything more than they are doing now, except they will get

more support in a formal sense”, Lamont advised.

Gugliotti is keen for “…our boys to continue on from last year and see what damage we can do on the field! We’ve had a solid start to pre-season and hopefully will go a couple of further steps this year!” Rory Huggard added, “I’m looking to contribute to create a competitive and winning environment. I’ve seen many great leaders of this club that are also great people, so hopefully I can live up to that standard!”

Current senior runner and former player JAKE KYLE will provide support to the leading group. “Jake is really passionate about his footy and the club! We want to support the leading players and the playing group in general. Leading is not an easy thing. It makes sense to have someone, with Jake’s abilities, supporting the players.”, Lamont shared.

The MFNC senior side is also very fortunate to have players like JACKSON TRENGOVE, TOM CROSBIE and new player BRYCE RUTHERFORD to share the leadership role around the club.

“Let’s face it!”, Lamont said, “Jackson played nearly 200 games of AFL football and played in multiple AFL finals series! That is pretty rare, especially in local country football, so his experience is invaluable. Tommy Cros is Mooroopna through and through and Bryce had four years with Casey in the VFL and has captained his local team Berwick in successful finals campaigns! It is such a positive thing to have these blokes surrounding the young players coming through the club.”

Finishing last year in the finals and well into a solid pre-season training period, the Mooroopna Cats are looking the goods as they approach the first round of GVL football when they take on the Shepparton Swans under lights on Saturday 8th April.

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