Riverside Olympic have begun to unravel a bold new recruiting drive to gear the club up for its NPL Tasmania debut season this year.
Coach Alex Gaetani felt it was imperative the reigning 2018 Northern Championship winners got up to speed with the statewide league.
“There really is a huge gap between Northern Championship and the top six at a NPL level,” Gaetani said.
“But there’s nothing to suggest that we can’t compete.
“We haven’t got everyone that won that championship to commit to the NPL, but we have got most of that group.
“But there is a huge step up and we don’t want to be languishing in the bottom two over the next few years.”
Riverside was granted admission into the NPL, joining southern champions Glenorchy Knights to push the number of clubs up from eight to nine before Northern Rangers withdrew.
The club has announced a number of new recruits this month, targeting youth and former Olympic juniors.
“We sort of wanted to plan out our squads in a few different ways,” Gaetani said.
“We have committed to a long-term plan of developing and improving our own players and juniors. That was sort of our main concern.
“We want to do things properly and we want to be around successfully for a long time…but we need to set targets of specific players who have NPL experience.”
The biggest recruit has been two-time Launceston City best and fairest winner Aaron Campbell.
The 28-year-old returns to the club after five years and 121 appearances as City’s NPL games record-holder.
Gaetani admitted securing Campbell was a major coup.
“Aaron was one of our main targets right from the beginning,” he said.
“We had some discussions with him pre-Christmas.
“He then made the decision he wanted to play NPL back with his junior side. It’s important we get our junior players back who understand what Riverside is about.
“Aaron is one of those guys that bring the experience and quality that we’re after.”
Riverside has also targeted disgruntled Rangers that have been left stranded without a NPL club this year.
William Humphrey and Mitch Roberts have committed to Windsor Park, while Mitch Jones, like Campbell, returns to his boyhood club.
Gaetani said he “had a bit to do with them” during a Rangers’ coaching stint.
“I knew those boys and knew the talent they had,” he said, “so we were quite excited when they decided to continue in the NPL.”
But Gaetani said the core of the squad will come from the success the club had in the Northern Championship.
“We are fortunate that we have talent here and names that don’t get talked about in recruitment circles, who is playing where and that,” he said.
“We’ve got a good young group who are at that level, but haven’t been given a chance because they played Northern Championship.
“So we’re investing our time and effort into these players to do the things that they need to do to get themselves up to that next level.”