GISBORNE’S 2017 playing stocks could be boosted by the inclusion of James Ferry from Essendon’s VFL list.
Ferry – a 191cm defender – has spent the past three years on Essendon’s VFL list, but is weighing up his playing future.
The 22-year-old has signed with the Bulldogs in the Bendigo Football-Netball League while considering whether to continue to pursue VFL with the Bombers.
“He’s a local boy who has been in the VFL system with Essendon for the past few years,” Gisborne coach Brad Spear said on Wednesday.
“He’s not too sure whether he’s going to play VFL again this year, but he has actually signed with us… if he decides not to play with Essendon he will play with us.”
Ferry, who has previously played TAC Cup with the Calder Cannons and overcome two serious knee injuries, was named in last year’s VFL training squad for the representative game against South Australia.
“Being a local boy, he’s only a one-point player and the approach to us came from him, so that’s really positive and probably reinforces that the club is on the right track and people are keen to come back and get involved,” Spear said.
As well as the prospect of Ferry playing for Gisborne, the Bulldogs have also added key position player Jack Baker, who is earmarked to play full-forward.
Baker played this year with Riddell in the Riddell District Football League, including in the losing grand final to Diggers Rest when Riddell blew a 13-point three quarter-time lead.
“Jack is coming back to the club from Riddell and that’s really significant for us,” said Spear, who will coach the Bulldogs for a second season.
“He’s 20-years-old and a big, strong full-forward, so we’ll look at playing him in that position this year.
“He’s a very aggressive player, so we see him as being really important for our young group.”
The addition of Baker to the forward line comes on the back of the Bulldogs having only Jake Conolan (24) and Thomas Wood (23) kick more than 20 goals last year and Gisborne ranked ninth for goals per game with just 8.5.
The Bulldogs will also have Baker’s brother, Ryan, full-time this year back from the Calder Cannons.
“Ryan is also a good size at around a six-foot-two key position player at both ends, so we’ve got two brothers who are both Gisborne boys who are going to be very useful to the club,” Spear said.
“They are both long-term players for the club, so we’re rapt to get them back.”
The other key recruit for the Bulldogs was announced in September when Hawthorn 2008 premiership player Clinton Young joined Gisborne as an assistant coach.
Young, who has committed to Gisborne for the next two years, played 137 AFL games for Hawthorn (2005-2012) and Collingwood (2013-14).
“Clinton is a country boy (originally from Minyip-Murtoa) who has a fantastic attitude in that he is really keen to develop the kids and has a lot of experience to offer,” Spear said.
“The younger guys are all really looking up to him and his influence has been fantastic on not just the players, but also myself in that I’m learning from him as well.”
Spear expects Young to spend his time this year playing a mix of half-back and wing for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are coming off just three wins last year in what was a season where Gisborne fielded a team filled with youth and captained by Jarrad Lynch.
“We’ve retained our full list from last year. No-one has gone, which is really encouraging and reinforces the fact that we’re on the right path,” Spear said.
“Even though we only won three games last year, the fact the players have all stuck around… I can already see growth within the group and that’s really exciting.”