Sport

Saint again

By Georgia Smith

A ‘‘tough, good old-fashioned footballer’’ is how Saints senior coach James Martiniello described Benalla’s latest recruit.

His brother no less.

Will Martiniello is returning home to the Saints for 2019 after a stellar season for Maribyrnong Park in the Essendon District Football League.

Martiniello took out the Reynolds Medal, cementing himself as the best and fairest player in the EDFL for 2018.

But the midfielder’s list of accolades does not stop there, having also been awarded a Morrison Medal in 2014, best and fairest titles for Benalla in 2014 and 2015 and continuing his form in 2017 to take the title out at Maribyrnong, as well as winning a premiership with the Saints in 2015.

Martiniello was also a part of the Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup premiership team of 2008, alongside the likes of now AFL stars Tom Rockliff, Steele Sidebottom and Jack Ziebell.

Playing his junior football with Benalla, Martiniello said it was great to be back at the club for next season and is set to travel from Melbourne for games.

‘‘Benalla is my home club, so it’s good to be back with my brother and mates,’’ Martiniello said.

‘‘I have fond memories playing in two grand finals, winning one and losing one.’’

‘‘We won our first premiership in 42 years, so it meant a lot to a lot of us and is something I will cherish forever,’’ Martiniello said.

‘‘It felt like it was the right thing to do coming back and we’ve got a good team together at the moment for next season.’’

On his success this season in the EDFL, Martiniello said it came as a surprise to take out the medal.

‘‘It was a bit of surprise, I didn’t expect it but it was a great honour,’’ he said.

Coach Martiniello said it was great to have his brother coming home next season.

‘‘He (Will) is a top-line player everywhere he goes and one of the best players in country Victoria, so to get him back is great,’’ coach Martiniello said.

‘‘I would be crazy not to use my connection to him to get him to the club and he has been keen to help me out in my first year as coach.

‘‘With his record, we’re not putting too much expectation on him.

‘‘It takes more than one good player and we want to play a brand of football where everyone contributes.’’

The Saints have also secured high-profile recruit Steve Murray, who has played VFL football for the Northern Blues and Port Melbourne, as well as being the leading goal kicker in the Ovens and Murray for Wodonga Bulldogs in 2017.

Benalla locals Mitch Exton and Ben Kunkle will also lace up their boots for Benalla next season after coming across from Barnawartha — Exton coaching the Tigers for two seasons prior to 2018.

‘‘They are all good people and good players who will be great for the club on and off the field,’’ coach Martiniello said.

He said the club had also retained about 90 per cent of its list so far, with pre-season kicking off November 19 for all current, past and new players — with some familiar faces set to return to the showgrounds.