LOOK WHO'S BACK: Jackson returns to Raiders for 2013 season

FORMER NSW Country captain Darren Jackon will return to Macquarie in 2013 as the Raiders look to defend their Group 11 premiership under new captain-coach John Grey.

Jackson hasn’t played since 2009 but with last season’s Group 11 hooker Jeremy Smith moving to Temora, Grey has pulled off the recruiting coup of the off-season.

A multiple-time Group 11 player of the year, Jackson will add a wealth of experience to the club, which is something the rookie coach is sure to utilise.

“He’s been out of the game for a few years but he is undoubtedly one of the stars in country football,” Grey said.

“He’s definitely looking forward to regaining his fitness and is training the house down... he will also be pushing to make the rep side.”

Meanwhile Grey has been delighted with the interest and enthusiasm displayed by his players during the pre-season.

All three grades have been training together with a strong focus on what they want to achieve this season.

The extra Wednesday training session  being utilised incorporates a lot more fitness into Macquarie’s tri-weekly training schedule with the forwards setting the standard.

“Ash Conn, one of the senior guys in the club now, has been really consistent in training," Grey said

“He’s really picked it up after Christmas and I think [he] will have a crack at rep footy this season.

“Moses Manu, who’s fitness has been unbelievable, has excelled in our extra sessions as well.

“New recruit Tom Wilson has moved to Dubbo from Warren to start his building apprenticeship  and is another player who has been training consistently... I’ve noticed that he’s been sticking with the fitter boys during training, which is proving good for him.”

Fijian imports Viliame Cagibula and Eddie Gusuivalu have also returned after enjoying stellar seasons in 2012.

The Raiders went all the way to the top under the guidance of Jade Williams in 2012 and Grey  hopes to maintain their success in the coming months of football. “We got beaten once by Parkes but we were still able to go into the semi’s and walked through to the grand final... it was a pretty big season for us," he said.

“I hope we keep our consistency up... I think the other teams will be hunting us pretty bad this season, which would make things interesting. 

“I’ll have my own spin and structure of play to be implemented, but I don’t think my coaching style will change things that much. I’ll definitely be touching on players’ individual skills.”

Macquarie will play their first trial game against Mudgee on March 9, with games also planned against Wellington and Parkes either side of Easter.

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