Panthers commit

August 11, 2017

The Benalla All Blacks have secured the services of Riley Moran, Al Jacka (pictured), Jack Ellis (pictured), Chris Lockhart and Nick Spencer until at least the end of 2018.

Jack Ellis (pictured) booted nine goals in the Panthers 181-point thrashing of North Wangaratta on Saturday.

The Benalla All Blacks president says he is ‘‘stoked’’ to have secured five key players until the end of next year.

President Blake Goodwin said he could not be happier to have locked down the side’s 2016 best-and-fairest Riley Moran, along with former Benalla Saints players Al Jacka, Chris Lockhart and Nick Spencer and the team’s leading goalkicker Jack Ellis.

The five signings follow on from Panthers playing coach Harry Moran last month pledging his commitment to the club until the end of next year.

‘‘It’s great to have them because a lot of those blokes have played at quite a high level of footy compared to where we’re at and hopefully they can teach some of the younger guys at the club,’’ Goodwin said.

‘‘Our on-field performances have exceeded our expectations this year and, on top of that, our off-field performances have been just as significant with the work we’ve put in around the ground and in the community. The sky’s the limit for us now.’’

Ellis, who leads the club for goals kicked this season with 47, said the direction the club was headed in was a major factor in him signing on.

‘‘It’s great to be named in that leadership group in the team with the likes of Al (Jacka), Riley (Moran) and Chris (Lockhart),’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve been going really well this season and if we can grab a few more wins before finals, we’ll be in a great position.’’

Lockhart agreed, saying it was ‘‘really pleasing’’ to see the side in such good shape.

‘‘We’re in good company now, with some quality players in the side,’’ he said.

‘‘Al Jacka is just an out-and-out superstar, and for Harry (Moran) to sign on shows the direction we’re heading as a club.’’

Spencer, who has been in and out of the squad this year because of injury, was one of three players to join from the Benalla Saints at the end of last year and has high expectations of the side next year.

‘‘I would think our goal for next season is (winning) the flag. We’ve got the team to do it, especially if we keep hold of the guys that are here,’’ he said.

Harry Moran said he was glad to have the signings on board to tutor the younger players in the side.

‘‘We obviously wouldn’t have signed them if they weren’t any good. We wanted them to stay at the club, and they have,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re 14 (wins) and two (losses) now. We haven’t gotten into this position through good fortune and luck. We’ve only lost to the real top sides, so to have those five mature heads around the younger guys next year, anything can happen.’’

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