Next in line to the throne?

September 15, 2017

New Echuca co-coach Andrew Walker is hoping to return his hometown club to the same heights he scaled for Carlton in his 2011 hangar on Jake Carlise, Picture: AAP Image/David Crosling

The first major punch towards ending Kyabram’s dynasty has been landed.

The Bombers have put together the best record in Goulburn Valley League history with 41 wins in a row.

One more victory and Kyabram will become the first team in the league to have ever won back-to-back premierships without losing a match.

Barring a major catastrophe — something Benalla of 2014 can testify to being a possibility on grand final day — the Bombers will be premiers and champions at Deakin Reserve on September 24.

While Paul Newman’s team waits to find out who it will play in the decider, a club who has not featured in finals for six years has stepped right up.

Former Carlton player Andrew Walker’s appointment as Echuca co-coach this week signals the Murray Bombers’ intent to regain their powerhouse status.

It has been a long time since they have been a force, with their last premiership coming in 2002.

Walker actually played in the last Echuca team to make a grand final in 2003, before the Blues drafted him, where he went onto make 202 AFL appearances in 13 years.

But the homecoming immediately makes them a contender for next season.

Forget simply breaking the finals drought next year, a preliminary final appearance will be a pass mark.

There are already legitimate matchwinners at the border club, who are all sticking around next season.

Simon Buckley is every chance to win his second Morrison Medal on Monday night, Ruory Kirkby is one of the best forwards in the league and if Kane Morris stays fit he is in the top three for ruckmen in the competition.

Throw in Daniel Willis, Liam Wilkinson and Bart Phillips and they are right up there with the best top six players at any club in the league.

Walker himself recaptured some great form this season while playing for West Preston Lakeside in the Northern Football League.

The high-flyer, who brought down one of the greatest marks in AFL history when he stood on Jake Carlisle’s head in 2011, had to close his AFL career because of a bad knee.

But Walker has taken part in an osteoarthritis drug trial this season, allowing the pain level in his knee to drop significantly.

He was named in West Preston’s best players in 10 of the 15 games he played this year.

Walker comes in as a star player and brings experience from spending almost half of his life at an AFL club.

He stayed at Carlton this year, working as a development and integration coach.

But one of his biggest qualities will be his profile to be able to draw on so many of his contacts from within the football industry.

If Walker picks up the phone to a prospective star player, there is a fair chance they are going to want to play for him.

The Murray Bombers don’t need much to be a top side and will have the room available to go out and recruit what they need.

For their last game of the season, they were sitting on 31 player points — 11 below the cap.

But there were games when their tally was in the mid-20s.

That leaves Walker capable of recruiting up to five genuine aces.

Even a guy such as Daniel Willis made up four points this year, but all players drop a point if they stay at the same club.

It is not just great for the Echuca Football Club to have Walker there, but also for the image of the GVL.

While Walker naturally grabbed the attention, the Murray Bombers pulled the trigger twice with Simon Maddox as his co-coach.

You don’t find many more respected people in football in the Goulburn Valley than Maddox.

He played at Echuca, featuring in the same grand final side with Walker 14 years ago.

Since retiring from playing, Maddox has made a seamless transition into coaching.

He did incredible things at Moama, taking the Murray League Magpies to an incredible grand final appearance in 2015 and almost pinched the premiership.

Maddox has been away from a permanent football role this year, although he did coach the MFL interleague side and helped out battling Kyabram District Football League team Longwood when the Redlegs were in a dire position for a few weeks.

Kyabram won’t be slipping far next year, if at all, but the Murray Bombers should expect to mount a legitimate challenge to dethroning the king.

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