Benalla has former Essendon cult hero Dean Rioli to blame for losing star forward Jarrod Bannister.
Jarrod’s brother Jordan Bannister is returning to home club Therry Penola in the VAFA next season after ending his career as an AFL umpire.
Rioli and Jordan played together at Essendon, paving the way for the former Bombers and Carlton player to make a comeback to the football field after Rioli took on the coaching job at the Lions this month.
Jarrod, who booted 54 goals in only 12 games for Benalla last season, is heading back to Therry Penola to play with Jordan.
Benalla playing coach Luke Morgan said Jarrod left with the club’s blessing to play.
‘‘The reasons are there for Jarrod and while it’s disappointing to lose such a quality player, he might not get another chance to play with Jordan again,’’ Morgan said.
‘‘Jarrod started the year well and then got that injury and it took a while for him to get back to his best, but he played some good footy for us.’’
Bannister was one of the Goulburn Valley League’s top goal-kickers this year, despite missing seven games through injury.
He would have come close to toppling Kyabram ace Kayne Pettifer for league leading goal-kicker if he had been fit for a full campaign.
Bannister is not the only player leaving the Saints, with premiership defender Jayden Guppy making a return to Benalla All Blacks.
Fellow premiership hero Jake Pallpratt will return to the field next year, but it won’t be at Benalla.
Pallpratt has endured a horror injury run in the past two years, having a knee reconstruction that resulted in serious infections, and has not played since the 2015 grand final win.
But Pallpratt has accepted a job as a physiotherapist in Bendigo and that involves working on Saturday mornings.
He has put in a clearance to play at Sandhurst.
‘‘Jake’s had two years out of the game and it’s been a long way back for him,’’ Morgan said.
‘‘He has to do what’s best for his career, so he’ll be working and living over at Bendigo, but hopefully he’ll come back to play at Benalla in the future.’’
Morgan said the Saints had already begun pre-season training and would look to blood their younger players next year rather than recruit, with Chris Welsh and Jack Spinks among the youthful contingent on the rise.