DARCY Richards has joined the off-season exodus from Eaglehawk by signing with North Bendigo in the Heathcote District Football League.
The former Hawks defender becomes the third key Borough footballer - after forwards Matt Gretgrix and Kain Robins signed at Mount Pleasant - to defect from the Bendigo Football Netball League club to the HDFL.
And more Eaglehawk players are expected to follow suit by walking out of Canterbury Park in the coming weeks.
New North Bendigo co-coach Rob Bennett said the lure of an assistant coaching role was partly behind Richards' decision to sign-up with the Bulldogs.
"He was interested to get into coaching and I think it all just sat right with him to move into this area at this stage," Bennett said.
Richards' work ethic and versatility were key reasons why the Dogs opened talks with the BFNL inter-league and former Maryborough player last week.
"We want to target guys that are professional," Bennett said.
"He's obviously got a great fitness, work ethic and we just thought putting him into our playing group he's going to leave from the front on the track and on the field.
"The beauty of him is he's versatile.
"He's been a key back in the Bendigo league, but he can go forward and even move through the midfield with his fitness base."
Richards will add bite to the Bulldogs' list, which is expected to remain largely intact from last season.
Former coach Damien Lock and Bendigo Gold midfielder Jordan Collins, who has headed to Kyneton, are the only confirmed departures.
However, ruckman Josh Gitsham is weighing-up his future and key forward Michael Spooner is "90 per cent" likely to play in Melbourne.
Bennett, who will co-coach the Dogs alongside Neville Massina, expects more signings at Superior Roofing Oval soon.
The club great is confident North will be in strong shape to push back into the top three in 2014.
The Bulldogs finished third on the ladder this season, before being bundled out in a preliminary final by Huntly.
In 2012, the Bulldogs lost the grand final to Lockington-Bamawm United.