EXCITEMENT is building in Wagga as the GDFA’s newest club – the Eastern Wanderers – prepares for its first ever outing in Griffith on Sunday.
The breakaway side will take on pre-season improvers West Griffith SC in its debut match in the local competition and is keen to mark the occasion with a win at the Coro Club.
But coach Andrew Douglas, an experienced former Riverina representative manager, has tempered expectations of his hastily compiled squad ahead of its entry into the GDFA’s strong first grade.
Douglas told The Area News it will take time for the Wanderers to find their feet.
“We’re not looking too bad. I’d say we’ve got a very solid first-grade squad,” he said.
“We’ve got a few that will be missing at the start of the season and a couple of injuries, so we’ll probably be a bit disrupted – but we’ve got two weeks on then two weeks off.
“After that, I think we’ll settle down and get some consistency going.”
After Sunday’s clash with the Magpies, Eastern Wanderers will play Yoogali FC in Wagga before the Easter weekend and then has a bye in round three, giving them a two-week break and an early opportunity to regroup and adjust to the higher demands of playing in Griffith.
Despite rumours the club was struggling to find the numbers to also fill a reserves side, Douglas said the Wanderers have a senior squad of close to 30 players, most of them from Wagga powerhouses Lake Albert and Henwood Park.
However, there remains a resistance to the club’s rebel movement that has kept them from securing other local stars who will stay loyal to their teams in the Wagga competition.
“It comes down to the players’ personal preference at the end of the day,” Douglas said.
“We’re not here to force people to play in the squad.
“There’s obviously a commitment to travelling and that seems to be more the issue than anything.
“Overall, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve put together at the moment.”
Some of the names that will grace the Coro Club Oval on Sunday include former Lake Albert attackers Cam Mavor, Bai Fahnbullah and Shaun Reddy, the latter who Douglas said was “fighting fit” and “looking very dangerous”.
However, the Wanderers will be missing experienced defender Sam Mangelsdorf due to a carry-over suspension from yellow cards that Football Wagga has apparently ruled will take effect in the GDFA’s first round.
Matt Barnes (work) and Kane Baumer (ankle) will also be missing.
Douglas vowed the Wanderers will look to play on the counter-attack this season and lean on the side’s battle-hardened veterans to carry them through their transition into Griffith.
“The squad has quite a bit of first-grade experience – even some of the reserves guys have had a good, good stint there previously,” he said.
“We haven’t sat down and worked out a team for this week just yet but I daresay it will be a very solid side.”
Douglas did, however, admit he knows little about the teams that await the Wanderers – aside from perennial powerhouses Hanwood FC and Yoogali SC, and last year’s preliminary finalists Leeton United.
“They’ve always had a strong reputation but the other teams, not really. I don’t have a lot of other information,” he said.
“A lot of the excitement will be about seeing what the opposition’s like – we’re going in a bit blind.
“The boys are pretty keen at the moment. They’ve been itching for a while.
“We’ve had a very, very heavy pre-season with fitness so they’re just keen to get on the pitch and see what we’re like, to be honest.”