North Ballarat Roosters land former AFL-listed big man

North Ballarat Roosters have landed their first signing of the off-season, luring former Collingwood Football Club-listed player Toby Thoolen.

The 26-year-old was drafted with pick 47 by the Pies in the 2007 AFL National Draft after finishing second in his TAC Cup teams – Bendigo Pioneers – best and fairest. He was on the list for two years without registering an AFL game.

Thoolen played VFL football with Frankston and Port Melbourne following is departure from Collingwood and most recently played in the Central Murray Football League with Swan Hill.

The 197cm utility has played in a range of positions throughout his career.

Roosters coach Marc Greig said he has shown an ability to play key-position down back or in attack while also having stints in the ruck.

He felt ideally Thoolen wouldn’t play in the ruck, but given the uncertainty around Orren Stephenson’s immediate playing future he didn’t rule it out.

Regardless, Thoolen has the ability to play a variety of positions and is set to be a crucial addition to either of end of the ground in a North Ballarat line-up that was screaming out for key-position players throughout 2016.

“He’s a big lad that can play either end,” Greig said.

Toby Thoolen in his VFL days at Collingwood.

Toby Thoolen in his VFL days at Collingwood.

“In a perfect world he’s not ruck. (But) we don’t know what O’s (Stephenson) doing and Row (Marshall), whether he gets drafted or not.

“He can play in the ruck if we need to as well as key forward or key back. He’s played a bit everywhere over the last seven or eight years.”

Greig said one of the major draw cards to North Ballarat for Thoolen was the standalone aspect of the club.

And while he was hungry to return to a more professional level of football and continue to develop his game even at the age of 26. The tight-knit club of the Roosters was something that appealed to Thoolen.

“To make that decision at 26 to come back to VFL, while county football is ok, he misses the professional side of things – he’s still keen to better his footy.

“He could go to an aligned team (but) the standalone aspect (appealed to him), one that is actually one club and all on the same page.”

Greig expected Thoolen to not only benefit the club on the field but also his leadership and experience off it.

The mature-age recruit has been through the elite system and has been exposed to the top level of football and would help fill a void on a Roosters list in need of some seasoned heads.

“He’s 26, he’s that type that we need in regards to leadership. He’ll set the example, he’ll be a leader on the field.”

Thoolen played 16 games at Swan Hill last year. He returned 19 goals and was named in the best on 10 occasions.