The Yass Magpies are leaving no stone unturned as they prepare to make a real mark in the 2024 Canberra Raiders Cup competition. The Magpies, led by President Tim Clayton and First Grade coach Adam Kyle, have been locking up players in one of the club’s biggest recruitment and retention drives in recent history. “We have been busy,” Kyle said. “We’ve got a strong 15 or 16 players from this season, but there were certain positions we identified that we needed to strengthen, and we brought a couple of guys in last year that did a job for us but weren’t what we were exactly looking for.”
“We started recruitment for next season back in May, and went after players in specific positions, and we were the first club to come out in September and say we have picked up some quality talent.”
“We wanted to get on the front foot nice and early, and with the guys we’ve signed and resigned, I’m excited about next season.” Headlining Yass’ off season recruitment drive is news that Charlie Woolford and Ranapiri ‘Rana’ Baker will join the club from the Queanbeyan Blues. Woolford is a 23 year old boasting over 35 First Grade games in the Canberra Raiders Cup. His father, Simon, is a legend of the Canberra Raiders, and Charlie will add some class to the Magpies.
“Charlie is a good kid; I was in the Raider’s system as a coach for seven or eight years, and Charlie played for me,” Kyle said. “Germ (Simon Woolford) and I actually get along really well, and when Simon was leaving the Blues, I was keen to chat with Charlie because he is an out- standing nine, lock, and seven that can play all over the place. “His footy brain is second to none, which we missed a bit this season.”
“He is very clever and skilful, and he’ll complement our current group and some of these new signings.”
“While Woolford will add some class, Baker brings size and power to the table.” The 24 year old joins the Magpies having played over 40 First Grade games in the Canberra Raiders Cup, and he’s widely considered as one of, if not the best prop in the competition. “Rana is a big signing, and he and Charlie are quality players and key targets, so it’s great to have them locked in nice and early,” Kyle said. Another massive pick up is former Canberra Raiders junior representative player Cooper O’Connor.
O’Connor had experience playing First Grade with Goulburn before injury kept him out for multiple seasons. The talented outside back is looking for a solid return with the Magpies. Yass’ fourth key signing came from closer to home in the form of utility Marty Smith. The former Gunning and Binalong player, who has turned out for the Woodbridge Cup representative side, will bring some versatility to the team as he can play in various positions. While recruitment has been significant, so has retention, with First Grade co-captain Ben Davis one of the first locals locked in for next year’s campaign, and he leads an extensive list of 2023 players signing on the dotted line for 2024. Andrew Smith, Lane Davis, Liam Grame, Blake Watson, Wise Vesikula, Jone Tabaiwalu, Charlie Shepherd, Richard Maher, and Mosese Nasilasila are already committed for next season.
“We wanted to ensure our locals were looked after, and Benny Davis was one of the first guys we talked to,” Kyle said.
“With him being First Grade co- captain, he is an influential player and one the boys really respect. He had a tough 2023 and started in the back row, and coming back from injury, we moved him into lock.” In that role, he was outstanding, and in a couple of games, he made 40 tackles, took 30 carries, and was consistently one of our best when he was out there. “Still, a couple of injuries and suspensions knocked him around, but he is a passionate player, and I’m excited to see him with a full pre season under his belt and ready to rip in next season.”
With Yass locking in their coaches and critical signings ahead of December, Kyle and his coaching staff can now focus on pre season and having a talented side fit and firing for 2024. The Yass Valley Times will have more on the Magpies next week, including a one on one with big man Rana Baker.