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2023 GNFL season preview: Chapman Valley look to get off on the right foot to break into top four

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Chapman Valley's Ewan Whitley and Northampton's Beau Walker.
Camera IconChapman Valley's Ewan Whitley and Northampton's Beau Walker. Credit: Kate Box

Chapman Valley Royals are hoping to build upon their promising finish to the season last year as they look to get back into finals for the first time since 2020.

Last year the Royals had a horror start to 2022 with COVID and injuries taking out a large chunk of their squad leaving them with just one win after eight rounds.

However, they won five of their next seven including back-to-back wins against minor premiers Railways and premiership-winning Rovers to be in with an outside chance of making finals but ultimately fell short finishing in fifth with an even 7-7 record.

With a shorter season, coach Aaron Thomas, who returns for his second year in charge, knows they cannot afford another slow start to the year.

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“I think round one against Northampton is going to be a tough opening ask I think they along with Brigades could be the benchmark for this upcoming season,” he said.

“I just hope we can start well, we’ve lost three to four players from last year which could hurt but we’ve got a strong young group which we can really build upon from last year.”

Thomas said regardless of the tough opening match-up he was still confident in aiming for what would be just the club’s second finals berth since 2016.

“I’d like to really like to be playing finals this year and hopefully we can get that one more win to get us into the top four,” he said.

“We give our blokes a bit of a licence to play free fast-flowing footy and I think it’s a style that can allow us to match it with anyone.”

The biggest signing for the club in the off-season will play only one game when Brownlow medallist Dane Swan suits up for their round two clash against Mullewa.

“He trained with us last year when he was in town and it’s going to be a huge day for the club,” he said.

“Longer term we’ve got James Mavrick who is a bit of a bull in the inside midfield while we’ve also picked up Jayden Rafferty from Jurien Bay who will complement our existing squad nicely.”

Thomas has also said in addition to some new players he was going to take a slightly different approach to his coaching style.

“Personally I’m a bit of a heart-on-my-sleeve guy but this year I’m going to try and be a bit more laid-back and I’ve got great assistants which I can really on,” he said.

“Win lose or draw I just want us to be highly competitive and when you see our game plan come off it makes for some exciting footy which we all want to see.”

Chapman Valley will be away in the first game for the Northern Derby against Northampton when the season starts on April 29.

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