FORMER Buninyong coach Joe Gilbert is returning to the Ballarat Football League after almost 15 years away.
Gilbert has signed with East Point for 2014, cutting his ties with Buninyong in the Central Highlands Football League, where he had played since 2001.
The two-time grand final coach put pen to paper for the Roos last week, which coach Glenn Wilkins labelled as a great move for the club.
Having stepped down from the helm of the Bombers after last year’s second straight grand final defeat, Gilbert said at the time he did not know if he would continue playing at Buninyong after quitting as coach.
Now, he says he is excited about a fresh start at a new club, in a new league.
“Wilks (Wilkins) was a big drawcard for me, I’ve known him since I was in the under-18s at Sebastopol,” said the 33-year-old.
“He’s a good bloke and a great coach and I think he will do great things at the club.
“It feels a bit weird at training just as a player but it feels right, the body feels good and we will see what happens.”
Gilbert goes to East Point on the back of a swag of strong players leaving Eastern Oval.
In addition to the loss of last season’s coach Dan Jordan, East have also lost gun midfielder Jason Delaney, the Hind brothers (Nicholas and Jayden), Sam Kitchin, Mark Phillips and possibly Hayden Walters, depending on whether he gets selected in Footscray’s VFL team.
Although his side did not openly pursue Gilbert, Wilkins said he would be an incredibly valuable addition to the Roos.
“We definitely needed a little bit of experience and Joe certainly has that,” Wilkins said.
“We think he can certainly play a role for us, both as a player and a leader. The boys have enjoyed having him around and he has already brought a lot to the table.”
Wilkins said Gilbert would most likely “pinch-hit” in the midfield, but could be used in almost any position across the ground.
Gilbert won Buninyong’s best and fairest medals in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007, as well as the Geoff Taylor Medal for league best and fairest in 2005.
He started coaching in 2005 in a joint role with Adam Lawler, with the Bombers reached a semi-final, before taking on the role solo in 2006.
After a year away from coaching in 2007, Gilbert resumed as senior coach in 2008, at which point the Bombers made finals every year for the next six seasons.
However, they failed to capitalise with a premiership.
East Point’s 2014 campaign starts against Lake Wendouree on Saturday, April 12.