Before the 2021 Upper Murray Football and Netball League (UMFNL) season was abandoned due to the NSW-wide Covid-19 lockdown, the Tumbarumba Kangaroos were looking strong, sitting third on the ladder and building towards a big post-season.
Following that season that included a drought-breaking victory over Bullioh, incoming coach Hunter Clayton wasn’t mixing his words when discussing the Tumbarumba Kangaroos’ chances in in 2022.
“We have unfinished business, and now we want to take it to those bigger teams and shake it up in the finals next year,” Clayton said.
“When the season got cancelled, I remember we trained on the Thursday night with unrealistic hopes we would get going again and it was the flattest group of blokes I’ve ever trained with.
“Then at presentations, everyone was talking about the season and about next year, and it’s like we merged into next year and now everyone is keen to give it a real crack.”
Clayton, who joined the club in 2021 from Lavington, is looking forward to his new role in seniors, and while he would offer a slightly different approach compared to outgoing coach, Quinn Rooney, he said he would be keeping things much the same
“I played last year and loved my time there,” Clayton said.
“I think we might implement a few things here and there, provided we can get the personnel, but the football we were playing on our day – it was good football.
“We are definitely not going to try and reinvent anything or try anything out of the ordinary – we have a good team there and we can work on that.”
In more good news for Roos’ supporters, Clayton confirmed that his senior squad will look much the same, while potentially adding a little more depth.
“We’ve touched base with just about everyone from last year and we are happy with where we are at and it looks like we are going to keep a good few of those blokes that played,” Clayton said.
“We have a few signings in place, and we are working on a few more.”
The 23-year-old was initially recruited to the club by James Waters as a marquee player, and he explained how his initial move to the Kangaroos came about, and how he ended up as coach.
“Jimmy had been at me for two years beforehand to come up and play I eventually broke and came up for the season,” Clayton said.
“At the start of preseason last year, Quinn had a bit of work scheduling getting in the way of training, and it was me, Muddy (James Waters) and Quinn running those sessions.
“They put a query out for an assistant coach, and I spoke to Muddy about it some more, but they signed a local boy called James Munday, and that’s when I started thinking about it and maybe doing more next season.
“At presentations, Mont (Waters) came up to me and put it to me to coach seniors, and I brushed it off as a joke at first, and he kept putting it to me and here we are now.”
Bringing success to Tumbarumba is at the top of Clayton’s priorities ahead of 2022, and he believes a premiership is just what the town needs after a tough few years in the UMFNL.
“Winning a premiership would be huge for a number of reasons,” Clayton said.
“I remember in round two when we knocked off Bullioh, and they hadn’t done that in three or four years, and they hadn’t been competitive against those top teams, and the feeling in the town that night was phenomenal.
“It’s been hard at times for the club, and to take that next step would be huge.”
Clayton, who spent his formative years playing for Lavington, has strong UMFNL connections, with his father, Glenn Clayton, a big part of the now defunct Border/Walwa club.
“I’m born and bred on the border, and I just bought a house two kilometres from home,” Clayton laughed.
“I played all of my juniors with Lavington up until two years ago and I used to play for Border/Walwa on an exemption and my old man played for them.
“A lot of dad’s good friends played there, and we still go up there and see them and dad always said, if I was going to play in the Upper Murray, it would have to be for them, but when I was ready, they weren’t there anymore, so I’m now with Tumbarumba.”
Preseason will officially start in January, but Clayton is hoping players are starting to think about next season.
“I’ve spoken to Mont and Muddy and I’ve been messaging people and telling them to get the bodies working, get oxygen in the lungs and to start getting ready,” Clayton said.
“As a team, we will start mid to late January and get it going from there.”
Clayton will have the help of Quinn Rooney who is staying on board as assistant coach, while Mathew Mccallum will remain the reserves coach.