WARRNAMBOOL’S premiership defence has received a significant boost with Maskell medallist Rhys Raymond rejoining the Hampden league club.
Raymond, 23, has signed for two seasons and will share the Blues’ ruck duties with Andrew McCarthy, who starred throughout the 2013 finals series.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter said Raymond was a big coup for the Blues.
Raymond won the Hampden’s league highest individual honour in 2011 before moving to Geelong West St Peters for two seasons.
“It’s pleasing when you can welcome back a former player, especially a former premiership player and Maskell Medal winner,” Carter said.
“He looks really fit and it’s a credit to him. He’s been putting the hard work in.
“To be honest it’s probably the fittest I’ve seen Rhys look.
“We think he’ll be good for us getting first use of the footy out of the centre of the ground.
“Something we have been missing the past couple of years is a big, strong body in the middle of the ground.”
Raymond said he returned to the Reid Oval-based club with better fitness and ball reading ability.
The lure of a second premiership with Warrnambool encouraged Raymond to recommit.
“I enjoyed my first three years and hopefully it’s the same,” he said.
“It is good to be back in a Blues jumper.”
Raymond said he wanted to help develop Warrnambool’s younger players and was excited about the prospect of playing against Port Fairy’s Sandy Robinson and Cobden’s Levi Dare.
The 2010 Blues premiership player said his main aim was to play consistent football.
Carter said Warrnambool’s focus was solely on preparing for 2014.
“It’s all systems go now. The celebrations are over,” he said.
“The players are having a break from the club for a couple of months but behind the scenes the coaching group and committee are working hard.”
The Blues’ only confirmed departure from their premiership side is full-back Will Jacobs.
Jacobs will move to Queensland for university.
Damian McCorkell will travel overseas but Carter is unsure if the midfielder will miss the entire 2014 season, while Tim Hunt’s playing future is uncertain.