AFL star seeks return ‘home’

By Paul Pickering
THREE-time AFL premiership player Mal Michael is poised to return to Nilma Darnum as it bids to reclaim the Ellinbank and District Football League flag from Nar Nar Goon.
The Bombers last week sent a shiver down the spine of EDFL rivals by announcing that 2009 premiership architect Brad Sinclair would next season return as senior coach.
Sinclair, whose knack for landing big-name recruits has attracted interest across the state, was officially appointed to take over from David Ivey at the club’s AGM on Friday night.
That bombshell dropped on a big weekend of EDFL news, with Cora Lynn announcing its premiership coach, Chris Toner, has accepted the top job at Narre Warren and will be replaced by gun player Brendan Kimber.
But it was Sinclair’s return that generated the most interest, prompting plenty of talk about which star players the Bombers may call upon over the summer.
Sinclair confirmed on Monday that Michael was almost certain to rejoin the Bombers, while former Essendon forward Courtney Johns and prodigious home-grown talent Kael Bergles were both likely additions to the side that finished 14th this season.
The straight-talking coach described his one-year stint at Heywood in the Western Border Football League as “a debacle” and said he jumped at the opportunity to return to Nilma.
“I absolutely hated it, so I couldn’t wait to get back,” he said.
“Truth be known I never wanted to go (after the 2009 season), but we just didn’t get the deal done by the middle of that year when I wanted to do it.”
Sinclair said he was lured to Heywood by false promises and ultimately short-changed by the club.
And even with fly-in imports Michael, Johns, Brad Smith and Brad Fuller, the Lions finished sixth to miss the WRFL finals.
Michael has all but committed to playing out his last season of footy with the Bombers.
“I’m 95 per cent sure he’ll be there,” Sinclair said. “We spoke about it mid-year at Heywood that we’d really like to get back there, because it really is a magnificent club with great people.”
Johns, who led the league goalkicking with 78, is also keen to play another season before trying his luck as a gridiron punter in America.
But Sinclair stopped short of declaring an immediate premiership challenge, saying he was intent on building a team which could have sustained success.
“The one thing that eats away at me from the 2009 premiership is every-one talking about how we bought it,” he said.
“They forget about the two previous years where we put in the hard yards after they were getting smashed by 30 goals every week. I want to spend some time developing the young guys in the area, so next year we’d be looking at winning eight to 10 games, then build the club back up from there.”
Nilma Darnum has also formalised the election of Debbie Tyson as the first female president in the club’s history.