NEW Northcote coach Steve Taylor has backed his successor as Dragons captain to flourish in the leadership role.
Taylor has handed captaincy duties to Ben Abbatangelo after the star all-rounder was appointed as David Reid’s coaching replacement in March.
Taylor said becoming skipper would be a “natural progression” for Abbatangelo, who has served as his deputy in recent seasons and been Victoria’s Imparja Cup captain.
“He’s a leader of men and he has wanted to lead this club for a long time,” Taylor said.
“One of his mentors, Grant Gardiner, is a former club captain and I think he really wanted to follow in Grant’s shoes. That time has come for him to make this team his own and really put his own stamp on it, which I am sure he will.”
Abbatangelo, a top-order batsman, compiled 414 runs at 31.9 last season and has previously been considered a Victorian prospect.
Taylor, who has coaching experience in the Northern Territory and England, said the role had been a “huge change in pace”.
“We’re fortunate we have got a strong group of leaders and I knew the time was right for me to step away (from captaincy),” the 2015-16 Ryder medallist said.
“What that does for me, if anything, is free me up on game day.
“Once we go over that line, I am a player only. Hopefully that will free me up to play some good cricket.”
The Dragons have been seeking two recruits to bolster their First XI squad, with a middle-order batsman a priority.
But Taylor is bullish about the club’s chances of an immediate return to finals after tumbling to 16th on the table last summer in a season marred by injuries to key players.
“We were struck down with injury last year,” he said.
“We had more than our fair share. A bit of luck on that front as well as one or two more (players) will put us right back up to where we were two seasons ago.”