FINALLY, genuine big-name, AFL premiership player recruits can offer something so invaluable to football in our region that was naturally petering out: experience from the highest levels.
We cannot hide the fact football in the Goldfields region sorely misses the extra drive from having a Victorian Football League team based in Ballarat.
This is season marks four years without a senior state league squad to mix western Victoria's most promising talent alongside and against AFL-listed players.
While there is still a strong legacy of North Ballarat Roosters in action across the Ballarat and Central Highlands leagues - and a sprinkling of VFL-listed players on lists - benefits from that constant presence have proved irreplaceable.
What a Ballarat VFL team offered was the chance for country players to take their games to the highest levels they could right from Ballarat. They could study here, work here and push their game in this city.
These were players who offered their home clubs a wealth of experience and this ultimately kicked up the standard of our grassroots leagues.
That exposure has not gone completely but what the Ballarat and Central Highlands football leagues are enjoying more now than they have in a long time, is a wealth of decorated AFL players.
Lexton product Darren Jolly - who launched his career via the 2001 AFL rookie draft from the Roosters - stepped out for his East Point debut in the Ballarat Football League last week.
For the dual AFL premiership ruckman (Sydney 2005, Collingwood 2010), this is a homecoming of sorts in arriving to team-up with fellow Lexton export, now 'Roos assistant coach Shane Fisher.
Jolly joins triple Hawthorn premiership player Josh Gibson (2013-15) as key BFL recruits. Gibson was lured to Ballarat Swans after coach Joe Carmody saw him running a lap of Lake Wendouree late last year.
Central Highlands Football League club Gordon this season boasts Geelong AFL flag-winning duo James Kelly (2007, 2009, 2011) and Shannon Byrne (2007, 2009).
Even if used sparingly, players of this calibre can make an impressive impact on the standard of the game in this region just in what they can offer in working with clubs.
This is is different to retired AFL stars making guest appearances, such as Dale Thomas for Ballan and Dane Swan for Creswick earlier this season. One-off matches create important hype about clubs.
Those who sign for longer create a much-more sustained effect.
We can also see this in the likes of former Roosters VFL premiership players Cam Richardson (Rokewood-Corindhap) and Orren Stephenson (Redan) in returning to play in the region after time in AFL ranks.
Other AFL experience includes, but is not limited to, Josh Cowan (Geelong) to Daylesford and Jake Edwards (Carlton) at Darley.
This season's AFL premiership recruits are a big boost to our region's football. We might not have a VFL team, but such quality experience can only help improve the standard on our turf.
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