Benalla All Blacks clutches a Harley in Taylor-Lloyd

By Meg Saultry

Benalla All Blacks are busy preparing their ascent up the Ovens and King League ladder following a swag of key signings throughout the off-season, including the highly anticipated signature of GVL player Harley Taylor-Lloyd.

New senior coach Nich Spencer said the club had been busy after just missing out on a final six spot back in September, picking up “five to six new senior players” as well as more than a dozen depth players.

“Definitely with the list we’ve put together we’re looking to play finals,” Spencer said.

“The other main aim (of the off-season) was replenishing the depth at the club.”

Big-man Taylor-Lloyd will spearhead the All Blacks’ attack next year, with the key forward an imposing figure on the football field.

During the past two seasons, Taylor-Lloyd has lined up with Seymour Lions in the GVL, playing 26 reserves games along with 11 senior appearances, where he kicked a combined 109 goals. He also featured in the Lions’ reserve premiership victory earlier this year. 

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He also has two senior flags to his name, starring in back-to-back grand final wins with KDL side Nagambie in 2016 and 2017.

Joining Taylor-Lloyd at the All Blacks next season will be Jack Smith, who has played senior KDL football with Avenel, following an Under-18 stint with Euroa in the GVL.

Smith will line up alongside Taylor-Lloyd in the forward line, though has the potential to move up the ground if needed.

Other key signings include Benalla Saints’ pair Brady Purcell and Brayden Wapling, as well as former All Blacks player Jackson Hourigan, who returns to the club.

Panther pride: Jackson Hourigan will don the All Blacks' jumper once
again in 2020. Picture: Garry Jones

Purcell has lined up for the Saints’ Under-18 side across the past three seasons, while Wapling is coming off a successful season with their reserves side, where he finished as runner-up best and fairest for the club.

Meanwhile, Hourigan returns from a year-long stint with Bonnie Doon and is expected to fill a role on the Panthers’ wing. 

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With pre-season set to kick off this Wednesday night, Spencer said the team would get straight to work as it prepared for a big 2020 campaign.

“There’ll be a bit of fitness, but also a lot of skill work,” Spencer said.

“Most of the boys haven’t touched a footy for a few months.”

Joining Spencer in the coaching department next season will be recently announced reserves coach Matthew Kilpatrick, who takes over the role from Chris Lockhart.