COLBINABBIN has sought to increase its firepower up forward in its bid to improve on a pair of first semi-final exits in the Heathcote District league the past two seasons.
Among the 2018 recruits for the Grasshoppers will be several additions to their forward line, including Elliot Bowen after a short-lived retirement.
After more than 200 games in the Goulburn Valley league with Rochester – including playing in the 2008 flag – Bowen had announced he was hanging up the boots at the end of 2017.
However, Bowen will be pulling them back on for the Grasshoppers next season.
“We spoke to him after he had finished up at Rochy and he has had a bit of a change of heart over the past couple of weeks,” Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight said on Wednesday.
“We were lucky enough to get his commitment… he’s ready to go and keen and the leadership he brings will be fantastic.
“Whether he’s playing centre half-forward or deep forward, he’ll certainly be a good target for us inside 50.
“One of the things we identified at the end of this year was leadership being a bigger part in becoming a better side.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of players who have played a lot of footy together, but getting some more senior type players will be beneficial.”
As well as more than 200 games in the Goulburn Valley league, Bowen is also a former VFL player with the Bendigo Bombers.
The Grasshoppers have also landed another former Rochester player in Mitch Bright.
Bright has played more than 130 senior games for the Tigers and was their vice-captain in recent seasons.
“He’s coming to Colbo in the prime of his footy, so we’re really happy to have him,” Knight said.
“He plays off half-back and has the ability to play tall or small, but he also spent a lot of time through the midfield this year at Rochy.
“He has a really big running tank, and again, his leadership skills over the past couple of years have really flourised.
“Mitch is a real goer and I’m a big wrap for him.”
The Grasshoppers have also signed three players from Brunswick North Old Boys-St Patrick’s in the amateurs – Lachlan Ezard, Chris Horsley and Chris Ford.
Ezard was captain of Brunswick North Old Boys-St Patrick’s, which this year played in division one of the VAFA, while Horsley was runner-up in the best and fairest and Ford was the team’s leading goalkicker with 39.
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“Lachlan is a quality midfielder, Horsley is a half-back/winger type and Ford is a key position forward who is also able to play in the ruck,” Knight said.
“There was a bit of a connection through Hugh Barlow, who went to uni with a few of those boys, so that’s how we were able to get on to them.”
While Bowen and Ford will add to the Grasshoppers’ forward stocks, so to will Michael Battista from the Doncaster Sharks in the Eastern league.
“He will predominantly play up forward for us, but he can also go through the midfield,” Knight said.
“He’s got a bit of X-factor about him.
“One of the areas we spoke about after this year was we needed to find more goals. We were very good defensively, but we couldn’t kick a score to continually beat the best teams.”
The Grasshoppers averaged a score of 89 per game this season, compared to Leitchville-Gunbower (137), North Bendigo (141) and Huntly (114), which were the three teams that finished above them.
Also joining the Grasshoppers is Xavier Walsh from Sandhurst.
Walsh played eight senior games for the Dragons this year and is a former winner of the Bendigo league’s under-18 George Symons Medal in 2015.
“Xavier is chasing a bit more opportunity at senior level and we think we can offer him that,” Knight said.
Colbinabbin plays Elmore under lights at home in round one next year.