Community Footy Coaching Moves – Riverland, Murray and Whyalla


In a short series of articles Peter Argent looks at the new and returning coaches in the various zones of Community Football. In the fourth and final of these he concentrates on the Riverland, Murray and Mallee areas, along with the Broken Hill and the Whyalla leagues.



In the second year of the seven-team Murray Valley League competition, where Sedan – Cambrai Magpies won the premiership in 2023, there are four new coaches for this season.

Veteran Mick Durdin has taken over the role at the Murrayville Blues

“We are travelling pretty well at the moment,” Durdin told

“My daughter is the coach of the A grade netball and that was my initial connection to the club.

“I last coached at Wunkar (RIFL) in 2013 and was there for three years until 2015.

“The standard of this competition has certainly improved.

“I was watching last season and we’re a 10-goal better team this year.”

Durdin started coaching at the East Murray Tigers in 2003, delivering the clubs first premiership in 28 years in his inaugural year.

He has four years experience at the Tigers and also was the Riverland Independent representative coach for that period.

Durdin went back and coached Browns Well for 2007, mentoring his initial Riverland Independent League club where he played 180 games from 1992.

As a player, Durdin enjoyed three premierships with Hamley Bridge in the Adelaide Plains competition along with the 2000 flag with the Browns Well Bombers.

Durdin also spent a season at the Kapunda Bombers under Daryl Schimmelbusch.

Mark Wilksch will spend his first season with the Wunkar Bulldogs.

He has previously coached at Loxton North through the grades and his First A-grade gig.

The Bulldogs have endured one of the longest current premiership droughts in SA community footy, currently looking for a first flag since 1976.

A Premiership player in 2022 with the club, James Mapstone is the playing coach for the Blanchetown Swan Reach Redbacks

At the Ramco Roosters,Barry Gavranich returns as their coach, inheriting the role from Jamie O’Callaghan.

Gavranich has previously coached the Roosters, then in the Riverland Independent competition from 2015 to ’17.  He has been coaching the past six years in the Adelaide Footy League.



Two of the four clubs in the Silver City have new mentors.

At the Central Broken Hill Magpies, Greg Wellington is back in charge.

In this previous stint with the Magpies, for the 2021 campaign, they didn’t win a game.

From South Coast of New South Wales, Wellington then engineered a Grand Final berth 2022, but they ran into the potent South Broken Hill combination.

Wellington didn’t coach at all in 2023.

At the North Broken Hill Bulldogs, Mark Pitt resigned early in the season and veteran David Ruddock took over the role, having played 226 games A grade games for the club.

He led the Bulldogs to three premierships, the last one being back in 2016.

Ruddock also coached the BHFL representative team for seven years in the annual Miners Cup.

Along with being North’s last premiership mentor, Ruddock coached the West Broken Hill Robins from 2019 to 2022.

New Coorong Cats mentor Daniel Menzel in action for Woodville-West Torrens. Picture – Peter Argent


The coaching ranks are pretty stable for the 2024 campaign in the expansive River Murray Football League.

This competition’s only new coach is AFL-experienced journeyman Daniel Menzel.

Having played football with Golden Grove, Central District, Geelong, Sydney Swans and Woodville-West Torrens amongst four ACL reconstructions, Menzel is taking over the helm at the Coorong Cats – a merger of the Meningie Bears and Border Downs Tintanara Crows last season.

At the club as a playing coach, Menzel has just managed to play the one game for the Cats so far in 2024.

Highly-respected First Nations leader Steve Sumner is in his second year with the Mypolonga Tigers while Taite Silverlock is the reigning premiership mentor at the Jervios Bluds.

The RMFL interleague game this year is played at LeMessurier Oval in Murray Bridge and River Murray will be coached by the Mallee Districts Storm (Peake and Districts and Karoonda) coach, former SANFL footballer with Sturt and West Torrens, Adam Klun. Klun engineered the league’s first win over the Hills in 26 years in 2023.

In its second season as a new entity, the Southern Mallee Suns (Lameroo/Pinnaroo) are still being coached by Nick Hyde.



A lifetime West Whyalla Dragon from his colts days, except for a season in the Port Adelaide junior program, Ben Butler is West Whyalla’s new mentor in 2024.

He comes into the role with a great record, having played upwards of 250 A-grade games and in seven A-grade flags.

A midfielder, known for his exquisite skills and ability to use both sides of his body, Butler won the 2011 Jim Hewitson Medal.

He takes over from another stalwart of the club, Brad Smith, who has the distinction of taking the Dragons to five flags across the past eight seasons, before going out on top.

Other than Butler, coaching ranks are constant in the WFL.

Mark Turner continues at Central Roosters, Waylon Nelson is at Roopena and Jared Stakley is in charge at Weeroona Bay.

David Atkinson is still in the role at the North Whyalla Magpies, the foundation club of Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend, North Adelaide’s Barrie Robran.

Michael Baker will continue as the Whyalla Football League interleague coach in 2024, after undertaking the role last year.

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