It's a long way from Zimbabwe to Mansfield, but Sam Muggleton made the most of his return to senior football for Shepparton United with an impressive performance against Mansfield.DAMEN FRANCIS June 17, 2014 3:05am
Shepparton United premiership player Sam Muggleton made his first senior appearance in three years in the win against Mansfield.
Ask just about anyone at Shepparton United and it was only a matter of time before Sam Muggleton worked his way back into the senior side.
Muggleton, 23, made his first senior Goulburn Valley Football League appearance since round 14, 2011 in the Demons’ 74-point win away to Mansfield on Saturday.
The 2010 premiership player, who spent a season at Victorian Amateur Football Association side Old Scotch in 2012, returned from a nine-month stint in Africa in May and has since been on a quest for match-fitness.
Three games in the reserves was enough to convince senior co-coaches Geoff Hall and Tim Looby he was ready for a senior recall.
Muggleton replaced injured star utility Brad Henderson and, just as he was in his first three reserves games, was among United’s best.
‘‘I hadn’t kicked a footy the whole time I was away and I was a bit scratchy at training for the first few nights back,’’ Muggleton said.
‘‘I spoke to Tim when I was overseas and said I was keen to come back and he told me I would play back in the twos and I was happy to do that because I was pretty unfit.
‘‘I haven’t played any other games, but they said it was one of our best performances for the year.
‘‘It was just good to be back playing a good standard of footy.’’
Muggleton played his junior football at Congupna — including the drought-breaking under-17 Murray Football League premiership with Collingwood star Steele Sidebottom in 2007 — before joining United in 2008.
He co-captained the Demons that year and made a handful of senior appearances, before establishing a place in the senior team under Marc Quarrell in 2009 alongside Ryan Butler and Matt Rendina and winning a flag a year later.
A change of scenery took a radical turn last year when he left Melbourne for Zimbabwe.
Muggleton spent time working for his uncle’s distribution company across Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.
‘‘I did a fair bit of travelling as well and worked at a safari camp for five months. I was assistant to the hunters and guides and stuff,’’ he said.
‘‘I was hiking and working at the camp before I got back, doing 20 day hikes and hunting and that. It was a great experience.’’
When he got back he moved back in with his parents in Shepparton and promptly rejoined United.
A silky wing-half-forward flanker, Muggleton’s experience belies his age and he could prove a valuable acquisition.
‘‘He was easily in our best players (on Saturday),’’ Hall said.
‘‘He showed poise under pressure and went everywhere. He started off on a wing and it took him a bit of time in the first quarter to pick up the tempo, but when he did he was terrific across the ground.’’
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