CASTLEMAINE will boast the BFNL's most experienced former AFL player this year following the signing of Angus Monfries.
Following months of discussions that began back in October, the Magpies officially unveiled Monfries as their new star recruit at Camp Reserve on Friday night.
"The path that the club is wanting to get on is really exciting to me and I'm looking forward to being part of a journey of, hopefully, a club that wins a few more games of footy," Monfries told the Bendigo Advertiser.
"And being able to help some of the younger guys is something that really appeals to me.
"I played a game of country footy back in South Australia last year during one of the VFL byes and really enjoyed the community feel and the town getting around the team.
"From getting a taste of that, it made me want to explore playing country footy on more of a permanent basis this year.
"I'm here to do my best on game day and try to perform really well, but also to help everyone with their development, in particular the younger players with some game learnings and, hopefully, some of the things I've experienced over my time can wash off on them a bit as well."
Monfries' first game for the Magpies will be a home match under lights against Gisborne at Camp Reserve on Saturday, April 13.
"Living in Melbourne I'll try to get up as much as I can for trainings and come up on the weekends and play," Monfries said.
"I'm really looking forward to the games coming around. I haven't had a kick since last August, so the feet are definitely itchy for the new season."
Castlemaine football operations manager Matt Scully expects the impact the signing of the 211-game ex-AFL player with Essendon and Port Adelaide to have at the club to be massive - both on and off the field.
"We started looking to plan for 2019 at about round five last year and what was at the top of our list was a marquee signing," Scully said.
"But we needed to make sure that we not only got a really good player, but a good person who would fit the club ethos and was really prepared to work with the young group that we have.
"Everybody who has met with Angus has been blown away by the quality of him.
"Without wanting to put too much pressure on the guy, in terms of where Castlemaine has been tracking for the past few seasons, I think what people will say is there was a period of time prior to Angus Monfries, and a period of time after Angus Monfries at the club."
Monfries, 32, joins Castlemaine on the back of more than a decade of Magpies' struggle on-field, which included claiming the wooden spoon last year.
The path that the club is wanting to get on is really exciting to me and I'm looking forward to being part of a journey of, hopefully, a club that wins a few more games of footy- Castlemaine recruit Angus Monfries
"Given recent years we probably didn't warrant a discussion with Angus because of his footy pedigree, but through Shawn (Filo, co-coach) having a connection with Andrew Welsh, who played with Angus at Essendon, it opened up some discussions," Scully said.
"His professionalism and willingness to want to get involved and participate around the club with junior development has been fantastic."
Monfries spent 13 years in the AFL system as a forward at Essendon (150 games, 165 goals) and Port Adelaide (61 games, 83 goals).
Among his team-mates during his time at the Bombers was Stewart Crameri, who is also playing in the BFNL this year at Maryborough, with the pair among the 34 players who were suspended for 2016 following the Essendon supplements saga.
Monfries spent last year playing in the VFL with Footscray, kicking 29 goals as Bulldogs' co-captain and being selected in the league's Team of the Year.
Monfries is the highest profile of what's a string of new recruits for the Magpies, who last played finals in 2005.
Also joining the Magpies in 2019 is new assistant coach Mitch Hough, Matt Filo, Jordan Matera, Dan Eason, Mitch Dance, Brent Symons and Sam Simpson.
Experienced midfielder Hough has previously played at Kangaroo Flat, while Castlemaine will be the hard-at-it Filo's third BFNL club having also played with Eaglehawk, including in the Hawks' 2017 grand final team, and Kangaroo Flat.
Matera is the son of West Coast Eagles' 1992 Norm Smith medallist Peter Matera.
"Jordan is a big bodied midfielder with a booming left-foot kick who we expect will have a lot of work forward of centre," Scully said.
"Mitch is a tall marking forward; Dan is a hard-running player from the Amateurs who we'll probably play off half-back and through the middle; Sam has come through the Strathfieldsaye juniors before going to Melbourne for uni; and Brent is a big-bodied forward who will give us plenty of strength."
However, the Magpies have lost star player Kalan Huntly, who was on Essendon's VFL list last year, to Central Murray league club Barham.
"It's obviously disappointing to lose Kalan, but he's had clubs coming at him for a few years now," Scully said.
"We'll always consider him a Castlemaine player and hope at one stage he'll come back and play with us."
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