The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have an Australian punter on the roster when the club opens rookie training camp at the end of this month.
The club announced this morning they have formally signed Tim Hutchison, a 25-year-old veteran of Aussie Rules Football.
Bombers GM Joe Mack said the club’s special teams coach, Craig Dickenson, worked out Hutchison recently and came away impressed with the strength of his leg.
"He has a very strong leg and obviously bringing him from that far away, we wouldn’t do that unless we thought he had a lot of potential," Mack told reporters during a national teleconference this afternoon held to preview the club’s upcoming 2013 CFL season.
"He might not be ready right away, but he has such a strong leg, we thought he was worth the investment."
Burke said Hutchison will have some work to do to become CFL-ready. "He has a lot of room for improvement in terms of technique and placement of the ball..."
Under the quirky CFL import/non-import rules, Hutchison qualifies as a non-import even though he’s Australian -- just like Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker Josh Bartel, who cracked the Ticats roster last season after a career in Aussie Rules.
The non-import designation will at least put Hutchison on an equal footing heading into what promises to be a very competitive punting battle in training camp.
In addition to Hutchison, the Bombers will also have Canadian rookies Brett Cameron -- son of longtime Bombers punter Bob Cameron -- and recently drafted Billy Pavlopoulos in camp to challenge incumbent non-import Mike Renaud for the punting job.
"Competition is always a good thing, it brings out the best in everybody," said Burke. "And I think from there, we’ll get more consistency in our punting game."
Meanwhile, Bombers CEO Garth Buchko also provided a stadium construction update during today’s teleconference.
Buchko said he still expects Investors Group Field to be ready in time for the first pre-season game on June 12.
Buchko said an unseasonably cold spring delayed the start of landscaping and brick work on the exterior of the building, but work has been proceeding quickly since it warmed up in recent weeks.
"As everyone in Winnipeg knows, up until two weeks ago we still had some snow," said Buchko. "The frost is going out of the ground right now, which is imperative to plant sod and trees and those kinds of things."
Buchko said minor finishing work will likely continue throughout June, but he said the product fans will see when the Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts on June 12 will look basically finished.
"All in all, once we kickoff on June 12, everything from a fan perspective will be virtually 100 per cent complete, except for touchups and things..."
Buchko also provided a season ticket update today, saying the club is approaching 24,000 tickets sold. The new stadium will have a capacity of 33,500.
The Bombers also announced two other signings today -- import offensive lineman James Carmon and import receiver Quintin McCree.
Carmon (6-foot-7, 320 pounds, Mississippi State) is a defensive tackle who was one of the Buffalo Bills final cuts last season. He was on the Bombers practice roster at the end of the 2012 season.
McCree (6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Maryland) had a career season in Maryland in his senior year, catching 40 passes for 485 yards while working under Maryland offensive coordinator at the time -- and current Bombers offensive coordinator -- Gary Crowton.