KEY forward Robbie Hare is seeking a return to Port Fairy, two years after refusing to play for the club and standing out of the game for a season.
The Seagulls yesterday produced the surprise of the Hampden league off-season, lodging a clearance application for the 21-year-old.
Hare, who played with Terang Mortlake last season after his self-imposed exile from the Seagulls, had signed a contract to join Hampden rival South Warrnambool in October.
But he became the second big man in a week to have a change of heart after inking a deal and under a loophole in AFL Victoria Country rules, South Warrnambool’s contract with Hare is worthless because he had not yet been registered with the Roosters.
Hare’s decision has angered the Roosters and will add further weight to calls to bring the timing of registrations from February 1 in line with the beginning of standard contracts, November 1.
Hare yesterday said he was excited about returning to the Gardens Oval.
“No one holds any grudges any more,” Hare said.
“We’ve all moved on, way past that.
“The committee has changed, the president has changed, everything has changed.”
Hare said his reasons for turning his back on the Roosters were personal.
“I didn’t feel like I was fitting in at South,” he said.
“I made the decision before it was too late.”
Hare said he had met Seagulls coach Sam Rudolph on Saturday and he was impressed with the second-year leader’s approach and plans for the club.
Hare, a talented junior with the Seagulls before leaving, said his heart was with Port Fairy.
He said the return of his uncle Neil Kelly to the club for “one last season” had added to his desire to return.
“I was always planning to go away for a couple of years and come back. I’m excited.”
The Seagulls are equally excited. Rudolph said Hare’s return was unexpected and would help solve a lack of tall players created by the unavailability of ruckmen James Vickers and Sandy Robinson.
“It was out of the blue and pretty random,” Rudolph said of a call he received from the club’s footy director that Hare wanted to return.
“I was a bit surprised given the past history and during the season I know a fair few people over the fence, Port Fairy supporters, gave him a rev up.
“But there is no ill-will. He said it’s no worries. Some of the people have either left and the people still here he’s got no problems with.”
Rudolph said Hare was likely to be used as a pinch-hitting ruckman/key forward.
“He’s not guaranteed a game,” Rudolph said.
“He’s got to show the commitment to the group and earn their respect. It doesn’t change overnight with a signature.”
South Warrnambool coach Matt Monk said Hare’s decision had come as a surprise, having signed a contract with the Roosters in October and training regularly during the pre-season.
“As early as last Tuesday he was training with us,” Monk said.
“I got a tip-off in the wee hours of Sunday morning he’s been spruiking he wasn’t going to be there. Before I could do anything about it, Port Fairy rang me on Sunday morning and told me he had signed a clearance form.”
Monk, who said Hare had not spoken to him about the change of heart, said the Roosters would not stand in the ruckman’s way.
“He, along with any player, should look up the meaning of the word commitment in the dictionary when you are talking about football clubs.
“And for that matter decency and manners.”
Monk said the Roosters, who will field a young list, had identified early the need for bigger-bodied players.
“He would have filled a key position, now four to six weeks out ... the door is open for someone else. We are only interested in people who want to be at our football club.”
Hare’s move follows ruckman Rhys Raymond’s decision to walk away from a contract with Warrnambool after returning to the region from Geelong and seek a clearance to Warrnambool and District league club Merrivale, which was approved late last week.