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Fraser buoyed by VFL prospects

Alex Johnson joins Northern Blues Ex-Swan Alex Johnson has joined the Northern Blues VFL side as Head of Development.

NORTHERN Blues senior coach Josh Fraser believes the retention and arrival of existing and new players has been a testament to the Club’s direction.

With the VFL pre-season three weeks down, Northern has locked away a dozen players for the 2019 season. Two of those are experienced heads from the AFL system, while the other 10 are key re-signings from 2018.

Arriving from the Western Bulldogs, defender Kieran Collins was announced as Northern’s first new VFL signing. He was followed by the unveiling of Alex Johnson as both a player and Head of Development last Friday.

Speaking on the Club’s two new players, Fraser said the impact of Collins and Johnson will be felt in more ways than one.

“Kieran will bring a lot to our club, first of all. He’ll bring versatility, not only with the ability to play multiple roles but also freeing up our other players. His investment and commitment to the Club has been really eye-catching so far,” Fraser said.


“‘AJ’ is everything I thought he would be and then some. You can’t help but marvel at his mindset, determination and focus, and he’s also been a really good sounding board and resource for me as a coach already.

“You speak of Kieran and AJ, but to go with them have been Sam Fisher, Josh Hill and Jesse Palmer to arrive in the last 18 months. They’ve been really big additions and have helped develop our culture and environment.”

Significantly, Northern has re-signed its top four players from the 2018 best and fairest, including winner - and captain - Tom Wilson.

Fraser said the positivity around the playing group had yielded good results in the early goings of pre-season, but said there was still a lot of development and hard work to come.


“The boys who have returned are back in really good shape, which signals some really good growth in being ready and understanding what’s required,” he said.

“The way they’ve performed on the track is encouraging from my point of view… The challenge will be to maintain that, but the spirit and energy that’s been brought has been really pleasing.”

2019 VFL playing list

Returning: Mason Blakey, Max Dreher, Sam Fisher, Josh Hill, Jordan Lynch, Jesse Palmer, Fraser Pearce, Ethan Penrith, Jean-Luc Velissaris, Tom Wilson

New: Kieran Collins (Western Bulldogs), Alex Johnson (Sydney)

The coach’s comments

Fraser on Alex Johnson: “For our players to observe how he goes about it is only going to help them develop. The role he’ll play in a coaching space will be significant, he’s had that experience while being injured and at a successful club as well. We’re excited by the prospect of getting him back to full fitness and I reckon he’ll be back sooner than everyone thinks.”


Fraser on Tom Wilson: “It’s such a rarity - particularly in an alignment - to see someone who stays the course as long as he has. His story is a really powerful one for our younger VFL boys. He didn’t play a lot of footy in his first few years but he persisted and is now a really consistent VFL player.

He’s a leader of our club, a Team of the Year representative and a multiple Laurie Hill Trophy winner. His standing at the Northern Blues is enormous and the respect he’s got throughout the competition matches that.”

Fraser on player retention: “It’s speaks to the environment and culture we’ve built. We signalled our intent pretty early to a number of players that we wanted to retain them — I’ve always been big on not applying a lot of pressure but letting them know they’re valued and where we sit.

They’re really important players for us, not just from an on-field performance side of things, but also from a leadership standpoint. We think we have good young leaders and we’ve provided opportunity for them to develop themselves. They’re great quality people and we think they’re the ones to drive the Club forward.”

Fraser on pre-season: “The boys who have returned are back in really good shape, we’re pleased with that: our High Performance Manager Steven Tiricola was really pleased and from my point of view, the way they’ve performed on the track is encouraging.

Every club will say the same thing at the same time of year, that they’re really happy with how they’re progressing. For us, we can only compare it to this time last year and we feel we’re further ahead. It’s really important we finish strongly heading into Christmas.”


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