Sydney University Lions will be chasing a 13th consecutive Waratah Bowl when they contest the Gridiron NSW Division I competition commencing in September.
And they’ll be doing so with a roster that contains some old hands and some new blood when then they kick off their campaign against Newcastle Cobras on the Central Coast on Saturday, September 5.
The roster includes 34 returning veterans and 24 new players. The freshmen will be presented with their game jerseys at the club’s annual dinner in the Grandstand this Friday evening.
Among those to receive their game jerseys are Alexander Watson, Conor Foley and Mitchell Haney, who were among 14 NSW players who attended a Gridiron Australia World Cup selection camp earlier in the year.
Long-time Lions coach Andrew Ogborne a sign of the increasing stocks of experienced players now involved in the game could be gleaned from the roster which includes only three players completely new to the contact form of the sport.
“Kiernan Dorney (#11) returns for another campaign and is joined at quarterback by London Blitz signal-caller, Joe Thompson (#1),” the coach said. “The Lions will not be short of aerial firepower this season.”
Ogborne said the passing game will have plenty of good targets, with veterans Anthony Sinton (#42), Sam Darcy (#84), Harry Granger (#5), Justin Klein (#36), Conor Foley (#21), Brandon Ausley (#35), Josh Yerrell (#10) and Jimmy Northwood (#88) all back to terrorise opponents.
“They will be joined by exciting new-comers Victor Martin (#86), Shane Dell (#87), Tom Holt (#89) and Scott Michael (#83) to round out a classy receiving corps,” he said.
“At running back, two-time Waratah Bowl MVP Alex Watson (#40) is back with Andrew Smart (#29) and Australian Outback star Conor Foley (#21) to provide a change of speed in the backfield. The Lions also welcome Abdul Kadir (#25), who has graduated up from the colts program.”
The coach said the Lions offence will be powered by a line with a distinctly foreign flavour, with the multicultural contingent of Justin Schnurstein (#61), Bradley McManus (#77), Alex Davies (#55), Luke Dickson (#78), Sam Haines (#66), Tsuyoshi Kittaka (#62) and Marton Perez (#57) leading the Aussie battlers in David Wilson (#76), Elliot Mills-Connolly (#75), Ross Thompson (#70) and Josh Canning (#63).
“On defence, the secondary will be a good blend of youth and experience, with new-comers Mitchell Henderson (#2) and Alan Femenias (#23) joining second-year players, Harinda Gunewardene (#3), David Lin (#15) and Tim Nguyen (#31) to team up with veterans Keenan Mackett (#9), Nick Olive (#22), Kevin Trinh (#4), Suren Wickramasinghe (#28), John Tamanivalu (#30) A J Oliverio (#18) and Stuart Olive (#14),” he said. “DBU is set for another outstanding year.”
At linebacker, a returning crew of Nicolai Hansen (#8), Steve Dabin (#45), Gavin Chipperfield (#6) and Lachlan Kadrian (#48) has been boosted by Sean Jones (#99), Jacob Gardner (#46), Ryan Shaw (#43) and Scott Thompson (#38). Harry Vance-Law (#58) and Bola Labulo (#53) will be bringing the heat from the outside.
Ogborne said the linebackers will be operating behind a defensive line which sees the return of the Aoun brothers – Fady (#79) and Chady (#54) – along with fellow veterans Angelo Matz (#80) and Jack Danielson (#94), with Chris Peel (#51) to make a cameo appearance before his return to the UK.
“These veterans will be joined by newcomers with a wealth of playing experience in Devin Lagorio (#44), Martin Balada (#74) and Frank Matue (#41),” he said. “Look for the D Line to dominate this year.”
Bring on the Bowl.