DEPARTING Charlestown club captain and all-time leading Blues goalscorer Scott Smith said he will return to the club one day after linking with Hamilton Olympic for the 2017 National Premier League.
Smith, the 2013 Northern NSW State League leading goalscorer with 18, will team up again with former Blues strike partner Kane Goodchild, who was the NPL golden boot and player of the year with Olympic in 2016.
Charlestown finished second-last in 2015 after losing Goodchild late in pre-season but they bounced back to take sixth this season.
The loss of Smith, though, is a blow for the Shane Pryce-coached Blues, who overcame financial concerns and changes in committee to secure another three-year NPL licence in September.
Smith, who helped the club return to the top NNSW flight in 2012, said “it’s a pretty massive decision for me”.
“I’m excited for the move, as much as I would have loved to have stayed, I thought a change may freshen me,” Smith said.
“Playing one up front hasn’t been kind to me the last few years and I don’t begrudge Prycey at all. He does what he thinks is best for the team and for that I wouldn’t criticise him.
“I still have a good relationship with everyone at the club, it’s been a great time and I will go back eventually.”
Smith was excited to play with Goodchild again and said it was a “no-brainer” to join Hamilton Olympic “if I was ever going to move” given he had played under coach Michael Bolch at Phoenix and knew the bulk of the squad.
Former Lambton Jaffas midfielder Peter McPherson has also joined Olympic, who will regain defenders Marcus Duncan and Tom Davies but lose Simon Mooney and Daniel Bird (both travelling) and have Jacob Bailey recovering from a knee reconstruction.
Pryce said Smith would always be welcome back at Charlestown.
“He’s been club captain since I’ve been there,” Pryce said. “His record speaks for itself. I’ve got the utmost respect for Scott as a player and a person. There’s no animosity there, it is what it is. It’s a football thing.
“I sent him a text message saying it’s sad to see him go and wishing him all the best, and we’d welcome him back with open arms.”
Charlestown have also lost linchpin Ben Hughes to retirement and defender Todd McSorley.
Lessening the blow for Pryce was the recruitment of Weston attacking midfielder Garry McDermott and Broadmeadow’s 2013 grand final man of the match, Daniel Casciaroli.
“Garry’s a seasoned, week in, week out player,” Pryce said. “He’s definitely handy and he’s a good bloke as well so I’m very happy and excited to have him and Daniel aboard. He’s a quality player, Daniel, and I think he’s been underrated for a long time. He’s another good character as well.”
The Blues have also picked up left-footed attacker Josh Swadling from Valentine and regained central midfielder Mitch Harper.
“With the three-year licence, everyone is going to approach things differently,” Pryce said.
“I’m trying to get some tried and true cattle around my younger guys who are still early 20s, and guys like Craig Purcell, who is still 17. All these guys can learn off them and we can build and be on the up.”