A ruckman from a rival GFNL club and a speedster with a WAFL pre-season under his belt has kickstarted Lara’s recruiting for the 2024 season.
South Barwon big man Ryan Bell, who played seven senior games this year after sharing the Allthorpe Medal as GFNL reserves best-and-fairest in 2022, will join the Cats, where his partner Cailah McPhail-Jans captains the club’s women’s team.
23-year-old Bell will be joined by speedster Cooper Ellis, who was recruited to Swan Districts from then-Western Region club St Albans.
Lara co-coach Shayne Stone hopes at 208cm, Bell will provide the club with a much-needed presence in the ruck.
“With our midfield improving each year and getting a little bit deeper, we’re looking to get a little bit more first use to them,” Stone said.
‘Borch’ (Jack Borchard) went down last year and didn’t play a game for us.
“Riley Dixon is a young ruckman who’s got a bit of a future. And ‘Gossy’ (Harrison Goss) is not big, and that was his first year back after about five years.
“We’re in desperate need of a big body, and our midfielders have been screaming out for a couple of years (that) “we just need a big fella”.
Ellis spent the final stages of the 2023 season training at the Snakepit, and Stone likes what he sees from the 19-year-old, who is likely to slot in across half-forward or on a wing.
“He was working with a couple of our boys up in Melbourne, and he was looking to have a change and play some good footy,” Stone said.
“He virtually trained the last 4-6 weeks; he’s actually been driving the off-field standards with some running and skills with some of our young boys.
“He’s pretty quick. He’s a left footer, got nice skills, and got an appetite for goals.
“We’ve got to try and get our scoring up a little bit.”
In more good news for Lara, co-coach Devon Smith is “ticking all the right boxes at the right time” in his recovery from a ruptured achilles suffered in a 2023 practice match.
Stone says the inaugural GWS Giant, and Essendon best-and-fairest winner is hoping to be right for Round 1.
“He seems to be happy with where he’s at right now,” Stone said. “We’re not going to rush it … when he’s ready, he’ll be ready.
“He knows his body better than anybody else.
“But, right now, it looks like everything is heading in the right direction.”
Stone says Borchard is still receiving treatement on a back issue but is hopeful of taking the field in 2024.
“We suffered a lot of injuries last year, so, hopefully, we can have a bit of luck this year,” Stone said.
“We missed Jack because he’s a competitor.”
Lara commences pre-season on Wednesday night.