Wangaratta premiership star Ben Speight says a career as a pilot is behind the gut-wrenching decision to leave.
Speight committed to Bacchus Marsh, which is coached by former North Albury and Myrtleford mentor Travis Hodgson, on Monday night.
The 27-year-old played 10 games for North Melbourne between 2010 and 2013.
“My number one plan was to be able to source my own job but, after exhausting all avenues, returning to Wangaratta isn’t going to happen,” he said.
“Bacchus Marsh has some solid aviation leads that I need to pursue.
“It’s not about money or time or people or travel.
“Perfect world, I’d have a flying job and come back to Wangaratta on the weekends, but it’s about setting my next 35 years up.”
Hodgson, who led the Cobras to the 2016 Ballarat Football League in his debut year and followed that with a runner-up to Darley last year, said Speight chose Bacchus Marsh as his second club while at VFL outfit Werribee.
“He’s the sort of player we’re after,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of blokes who get a fair bit of the footy, but those high-impact players, there’s not many of them around, they really hurt you with their possessions.”
Speight was a genuine match-winner.
He wasn’t a ball magnet, racking up possessions, but he had the skill and composure to land crucial goals.
He was the only player in the grand final to kick two from around 50 metres.
The 27-year old raved about the Pies, the league and coach Dean Stone.
“I can’t thank ‘Stoney’ enough, he’s been unreal,” he said.
“There was some rubbish written about him last year and the type of person that he is and that’s definitely not true.
“I can’t speak highly enough of ‘Stoney’ and how he runs his part of the Wangaratta footy club and the rest of the people that run it, from the board down, are doing a fantastic job.
“The O and M was a major carrot for me, I can’t speak highly enough of the Ovens and Murray.”
The loss of Speight means the Pies have now lost almost a third of their grand final team.
Fellow Werribee recruit Josh Porter left last week, while siblings Judd and Daine Porter (retirement), Tom Whittlesea (South Australia) and young gun Nick Richards (Williamstown) had previously confirmed their departure.
However, Richards has nominated the premiers as his home club, so he will play if not selected at VFL level, while speculation is rising Daine Porter could play.