MASKELL Medal-winning ruckman Rhys Raymond is free to join Merrivale, despite having signed a contract to play with Warrnambool.
AFL Victoria yesterday confirmed the two-year contract Raymond had penned with Warrnambool in November had no legal standing.
The gun tall committed to the Hampden league premier in October and signed a contract in November.
But he has walked out on the club to play with Warrnambool and District league flag aspirant Merrivale.
In a statement, AFL Victoria Country said the contract was invalid because Raymond was still registered with Geelong West-St Peters, where he played in 2013.
“AFL Victoria can confirm that a contract with a player is not enforceable unless that player is registered with the club,” the statement said.
But Warrnambool was unable to register Raymond until Geelong West-St Peters officials had cleared him from their books.
And Geelong West-St Peters could not clear him until clearances opened on February 1, even though its own contract with Raymond expired on October 31.
The ruling has sparked an outcry at Warrnambool, which slammed the gap between when contracts end and new ones are enforceable.
Warrnambool football manager Ray Phillips said he was frustrated a loophole could undermine any recruiting the Blues had done.
“From a club perspective, all the action takes place as soon as your own season finishes,” he said.
“It seems stupid to me that there is this gap from October 31 until February 1.
“You’ve got three months. That is the vital period for clubs to go out and recruit players.
“But you can’t sign players and you can’t register them.
“The whole thing doesn’t add up. AFL Victoria Country has to get their act together.
“There is a three-month discrepancy. That’s the busiest time for football clubs to recruit.”
Phillips said the Warrnambool committee would meet next week to discuss the saga.
In a further development, it has emerged Merrivale officials had no role in luring Raymond to Tigerland.
Coach Karl Dwyer said Raymond had approached the Tigers to play of his own accord, but would let Raymond reveal his reasons.
“I’ll let him say why he came. I don’t want to speak out of school there,” Dwyer said.
“He came to us, that’s what happened there.
“I’m not 100 per cent with all the contract details, but if he does come he’ll be another bigger body.
“That’s what Merrivale was missing, especially last finals series.
“Someone who can give you first use of the footy is going to be helpful.”
Dwyer said he was unsure whether incumbent ruckman Manny Sandow would play with Merrivale. Sandow is waiting on his university timetable.
Dwyer said recruit Joe Woonton could also play in the ruck, although he would prefer to use the Koroit premiership player at either end of the ground.
Raymond failed to return calls from The Standard yesterday.