Finley’s 2018 Murray League season is already looking bright with former Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs player Ed Barlow returning to the Cattery next year.
The Cats’ 2016 best and fairest winner joins a host of former players re-signing with the club, which finished last this season.
After playing in Finley’s heartbreaking grand final loss to Nathalia last year, Barlow spent this year with the Aspley Hornets in the NEAFL.
His return to Finley was well received by Cats coach Rob Daniel.
‘‘It is pretty handy to have him back,’’ Daniel said.
‘‘We were disappointed to lose him last year, but he was doing a university course that he had to move to Queensland to finish.
‘‘He actually creates a lot of interest; he’s a great footballer and a nice bloke too, so it’s good to have him back.’’
Barlow was a key factor in Finley’s rise to the grand final last year, booting 49 goals in 18 games and coming second in the league’s O’Dwyer Medal count.
His signing has drawn plenty of other players back to Finley Recreation Reserve, with 2015 best and fairest Tim McKenzie and 2009 best and fairest Robb Jewell among the players committing to the club for a fresh campaign.
Former Cats juniors Nick Robertson, Tom Doyle and Angus Robertson are also returning home, with Daniel excited to have them all on board.
‘‘It’s good that a few local boys are returning home for work on the farms,’’ Daniel said.
The Cats have also focused on retaining players from their junior ranks with Zec Cuppens and Wyatt Gray heading a group of this year’s thirds graduates to commit to the club.
Daniel said that with the new recruits and thirds graduates his side would be much harder to push around next season.
‘‘We’re just aiming to be competitive, so we’re probably at that stage now with the local boys coming back and a good group of very competitive under-17 players who will walk straight into senior footy,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re going to be significantly better than this year, put it that way.’’
Finley president Ashley Haynes said the club was very happy with the progress made to date over the off-season, but the club still requires further numbers to be competitive in both senior grades.
‘‘We have kept the core group from last season and there was a lot of progress made within the club that was not reflected on the scoreboard or the ladder,’’ Haynes said.
‘‘Lachy Small and Shaun Kable were wonderful leaders on and off the field and they will continue in that role this season.’’
The club’s campaign for 2018 will begin with pre-season, to be held at Finley Recreation Reserve starting Tuesday, November 28.
The club has also been busy off the field, with Matthew Clarke, Mark Robertson and Cameron Robertson all joining the committee at the club’s recent AGM.