Cowra’s quest for a break-through Group 10 first grade premiership has received a three-pronged boost and a new coach.
The Magpies haven’t tasted grand final glory in the top grade since 1995 and went within a feather of snapping that drought in 2018, but ultimately suffered a heart-breaking 12-10 loss in the decider to Bathurst Panthers at Sid Kallas Oval.
It was the second time in five years the club has lost a home grand final.
But in a bid to ensure 2019 doesn’t end the same way, the black and whites have turned to premiership-winning coach Kurt Hancock, and signed half Claude Gordon, towering prop Lewis Dwyer and former St George-Illawarra under 20s rake Logan Harris, as well as maintaining the bulk of last year’s minor premiership winning squad too.
The swift confirmation of a new coach and a host of quality players is in stark to the dire situation the club found itself in this time last season, where the swoopers were unable to form a committee and looked every bit the Group 10 cellar dwellers for 2018.
Late in the piece, Steve Sutton stepped in to coach the club, successfully, and will maintain a link with the Magpies in 2019 despite stepping back from the head-coach role.
Confessing the top job was “too hard to knock back”, Hancock knows the strong position the Magpies find themselves in now will inevitably mean the rest of Group 10 will be gunning for the Cowra club ahead of 2019.
He’s not too concerned though.
“After our recruitment a lot of people will think we’re favourites but we’ll erase that. We’re starting from the bottom again,” Hancock said.
The former St Pat’s mentor helped run the water for the Magpies in 2018.
CONFIRMED!#Group10 runners-up Cowra have ramped up preparations ahead of 2019 with 3 pretty handy additions.#Group11 pair Gordon and Dwyer, and former @NRL_Dragons 20s gun Logan Harris.— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) October 22, 2018
Premiership-winning coach Kurt Hancock will take the reins at the Magpies, too.#SWOOPpic.twitter.com/nuiPL1llmg
“We can’t walk away from last year and then start where we finished off because if we have that mind-set you all of sudden lose your first four games and you’re at the bottom of the ladder … but everything points to a successful year.”
Hancock was thrilled to have secured the services of Harris, a dynamic hooker with a clever left-foot kick. Last season’s rake, Benjamin John, hasn’t committed for 2019.
While Dwyer, from Parkes in Group 11, adds plenty of size to a front-row rotation that just about played every minute of the bulk of last season.
But it’s the addition of Gordon in the halves that has Hancock particularly pleased.
“When Claude and Jez (Jeremy Gordon) played together, Jez was the Group 10 player of the year and probably played the best two years of footy that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Hancock said.
“In saying that too, (Claude’s) a good game manager and has a good kicking game, and that’s something we lacked a bit of in the grand final.”
Hancock is planning to bring his squad together for a few, full-day pre-season runs in late November.
“What can cover on a full day is three sessions worth … you’re in front that way. That’s what we’re aiming for,” he added.