A HAMPDEN league premiership contender has added a former AFL-listed footballer to its 2021 list.
Dion Johnstone will return to North Warrnambool Eagles and play under coach Adam Dowie.
Johnstone was part of the Eagles' 2016 grand final side before he was drafted to Melbourne with pick 64 that year.
He spent two seasons at the Dees, playing for their VFL affiliate Casey before he was delisted at the end of 2018.
Johnstone, a hard-tackling small forward or half-back flanker, then joined Port Melbourne in the state league.
Dowie said North Warrnambool was rapt to welcome him back to Bushfield Recreation Reserve.
"He moved back halfway through the year; him and his partner Lucy have moved down here," he told The Standard.
"Lucy is working from home and Dion has started an apprenticeship with Glen Scriven Plumbing.
"It has all aligned pretty well."
Dowie said Johnstone would put his leadership qualities to good use.
"With our acceleration program, which we can hopefully resume in term four, he is going to have a development role with the young players," he said.
"That was one of the things that attracted him (back to the club). We sold him on our young list and young kids coming through."
Johnstone said he "went in with an open mind" when weighing up which club to play for knowing "the next step for me personally is leadership".
Ultimately North was considered the best fit.
"I was open to going anywhere, I had a couple of chats with some really good people from other clubs but at the end of the day I wanted to go somewhere I thought I would enjoy my football the best," he told The Standard.
"That is the main priority for me, I just wanted to enjoy my football again and just be comfortable in the environment I was in.
"At this point in time I thought North would best suit me given the development coaching role they offered.
"Something I want to do in the next step is help out where I can and Dowie is a really good coach, and I will just learn bits and pieces off him from a coaching point of view.
"It is something I would like to do later down the track."
Johnstone said he felt the time was right to return home to friends and family after living in Melbourne for seven years.
He moved to Scotch College as a boarder in year 10.
Johnstone said he informed Port Melbourne - the club he was to play for in 2020 before coronavirus hit - of his decision.
"I was signed at Port Melbourne. I was there last year and again this year under contract," he said.
"After the first wave, we started training for three weeks and then I had an opportunity to come home and I took that opportunity.
"It is something I had been looking to do, come home and be closer to family. I just got sick of Melbourne and the city life.
"I had to talk to (Port Melbourne's) Gary Ayres and Sam Dwyer and told them 'I am thinking of moving home', they were like 'no worries', saying they totally understand and wished me all the best."
Dowie said he was looking forward to working with Johnstone.
"I don't know him that well but we've had a few meetings and he's a likeable young fella and for us to have access to someone who has been in the AFL system for a few years, played under Simon Goodwin, played at Port Melbourne and at Casey (is great)," he said.
"He's someone who is keen to teach and he's also got that technical knowledge about playing different roles whether it be the contested game or uncontested game."
Dowie said Johnstone, still only 22, "had his best footy ahead of him".