SOUTH Warrnambool is celebrating after winning the race for former Hawthorn and Adelaide midfielder Ricky Henderson.
The 159-gamer signed with the Roosters after interest from a number of suitors.
Henderson retired from the AFL at the end of the 2020 season.
He played seven games before knee surgery ruled him out of the rest of the Hawks' campaign.
Henderson, 32, enjoyed a career-best season in 2019 when he finished runner-up in Hawthorn's best and fairest after averaging 24 disposals a game.
The former rookie selection said he was thrilled to join the competition and was impressed with the clubs he had discussions with before making his decision.
"I had meetings with six or seven clubs and it all went really well," he told The Standard.
"They all had a strong point-of-difference. To pick one out wasn't the easiest job but I am glad I picked South in the end.
"I'd like to say thanks to all the clubs that did reach out to me. They were all so welcoming.
"The league going forward has a lot going for it and I am really excited about the opportunity to play in it."
South Warrnambool's focus on junior development interested Henderson.
"I have only had limited exposure to the league itself but just the people that are involved with the club (impressed me) and they pride themselves on their junior program pretty highly and that is something I'd like to get involved in, whether that's next year or the year after or the year after that," he said.
"It ticked all the boxes for me and I am very happy to be there in the end."
Henderson last played for Hawthorn during its short coronavirus-enforced hub stint in Sydney and then came to Warrnambool, where his wife Jenny hails, to do his recovery.
He admitted it was a "weird" way to finish his AFL career.
"It was definitely weird but that's the year it's been for everyone," he said.
"Not to have a send-off game or anything wasn't a huge issue for me but it was completely different to how most people finish their careers.
"But the time I've got to spend with my family over the last three months, I wouldn't change that for the world."
South Warrnambool president Steve Harris saidthe Roosters were grateful Henderson had picked Friendly Societies' Park.
"We are absolutely thrilled that Ricky and Jenny have settled on South Warrnambool as being their future home and see them and their children Rylee and Billy as a perfect fit into our family-orientated club," he said.
"It is very rare indeed that you secure someone immediately out of the elite AFL system into a small country club, and after having so many opportunities put in front of them, Ricky and Jenny have made South their first choice.
"We believe Ricky has a lot to offer not only our senior playing group but our South community as a whole."
Harris said Henderson was the ideal fit for South Warrnambool which has also secured coach Mat Battistello for another season.
"Ricky's signing adds further endorsement to the environment and culture we are creating at South Warrnambool," he said.
"This signing, on top of the full commitment of the current playing group and new recruits, sees us in a strong position not only on field but also in the building of our successful culture across the whole club.
"We look forward to 2021 with renewed optimism."
South Warrnambool made an elimination final in 2019 and enjoyed a strong recruiting drive before coronavirus pandemic forced this season to be cancelled.