Royals put focus on youth policy

Tayler NealeAlbany Advertiser

Youth and pace will be the major focus for a developing Royals side in 2017 as they look to build on last year’s third placing.

After going down to eventual premiers North Albany by 14 points in last year’s preliminary final, the Lions added former Claremont colts player Arana O’Byrne and key forward Sam Baddeley-Holmes to their side.

With the departure of mid-fielders Tom Maslen and Declan McNamara, along with defender Broady Linthorne, the Lions will lean on their juniors to fill the void.

Lions coach James McRae, now in his third year at the helm, said he expected young midfielder Tom Baldwin to play a larger role this year.

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“Tommy Baldwin will come up and play some league footy this year — he’s a talented young player who continues to develop,” he said.

The Lions will also welcome back defender Aran Tilbury, while new recruit Cody Williams, originally from Denmark, is expected to play through the midfield and up forward.

McRae said he was impressed with his side’s preparation leading into round 1.

“We’re shaping up pretty well at the moment — we’ve had a superb pre-season with great numbers on the track, so we’re fit and ready to go,” he said. “We’re faster than we were last year so we’ll be playing with a fair bit of speed. We’ve got a lot of young talent that we’ll be looking to develop.”

The Lions are co-tenants of the new Centennial Stadium, which is 5m longer than Domain Stadium, providing an advantage, according to McRae.

“We’re going onto a new turf and we’ll be looking to make an impact,” he said. “It’s a bigger ground than where we played last year, so that will suit us.”

McRae said the club would be boosted by the inclusion of Baddeley-Holmes, who has spent the past three seasons with Borden in the Ongerup Football Association.

“He’ll play as a key forward for us and give us another option up there,” he said.

Ruck-forward Peter Mark, who played for Claremont reserves and spent a season with Royals in 2014, is expected to return to the club for the second half of the season.

McRae also confirmed key forward Glynn Verbruggen would return to the side later in the season, with surgery required on an injured knee.

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