Star forward Sam Barnes is returning to North Central Football League club Wedderburn.
Barnes played in five premierships for the Redbacks in his first stint with the club between 2007 and 2014.
He made the move to North Bendigo where he played in back-to-back flags in 2015-16 and helped the club to a third-straight grand final appearance this year where they lost to Leitchville-Gunbower.
Barnes played 49 games for the Dogs and kicked 244 goals.
His North Bendigo and Wedderburn premiership team-mate Jaran McKay has also made the decision to return to the Redbacks.
“They’re both players that we needed and, just as importantly, they’re fantastic fellows off the field,’’ a delighted Wedderburn coach Danny Benaim said of Barnes and McKay.
“The timing was right for them to come back to the club and we’re very happy that they’ve made the move. It’s going to be great for the club.”
North Bendigo president Jie Thomson paid tribute to Barnes.
“Sam Barnes has been a valuable leader at our club for the past three years,’’ Thomson said.
“In that time he was a major factor in winning a senior flag and breaking a 38-year drought. Having someone like Barnesy at your club is an absolute bonus and I wish him well at his future club in season 2018.”
Wedderburn hasn’t made the finals since winning the premiership in 2014.
After finishing on the bottom of the table in 2016 they showed some good signs this year in winning four games and jumping up the ladder to sixth.
“We felt we weren’t far off, but we were probably two or three key position players off the really top teams,’’ Benaim said.
“Adding these two players helps and, hopefully, we can add a couple more and we’ll be able to compete with the top teams every week.”
Barnes and fellow key forward Brady Herdman kicked 609 goals between them in Wedderburn’s four-straight flags between 2011-14.
This time around he’ll have a much younger group of forwards to work with.
“No matter what footy Sam plays in he’ll be a handful to stop,’’ Benaim said.
“We have a couple of really young key forwards, so to put Sam beside those boys will help them a lot.
“When they (Barnes and McKay) were last here their standards on the track were really high and that rubbed off on the group.
“Hopefully, they can bring that back this time around.”
McKay will add some flexibility and depth to the Redbacks’ midfield group.
“He was one of the fittest players here last time he was at the club,’’ Benaim said of McKay.
“He can play a few different roles and he’ll be a great acquisition for the club.”