Rochester star Steven Stroobants has landed a plum job at North Melbourne and is unlikely to play with the Tigers next season.
Stroobants will work in a development role at the Kangaroos and play with the club’s inaugural VFL team after North’s alignment with Werribee ended.
In a potential double blow for the Tigers, fellow Victoria Country representative Nathan Marrone has had interest from three VFL clubs and has been training with Essendon.
Rochester playing coach James Flaherty said the classy pair could still be affiliated with the Tigers and play some games.
‘‘We’re still hopeful he’ll (Stroobants) align with us, but he’s got a job working with first to third-year players and will play VFL with North Melbourne,’’ Flaherty said.
‘‘If he aligns with us, we could still get him for a few games when he’s not required in the VFL.
‘‘For Marrone he’s going to be at Essendon for the VFL pre-season and he’ll see how that goes over the next few weeks and if he makes it on their list.
‘‘He’s going to stay aligned with us, but hopefully he does play VFL seniors and we’ll just get him to play for us when he can.’’
They are not the only losses for Rochester, with long-serving midfielder Dillion Williams signing at Eaglehawk in the Bendigo Football League.
Ruckman-forward Scott Oakley is leaving to live in Adelaide, the versatile Mitch Bright is off to Colbinabbin and Jarod Bacon will return to home club Lockington Bamawm United where his father is president.
That is on top of the retirements of veterans Heath Aitken, Elliot Bowen and Sam Brennan, although Bowen has lodged a clearance to Colbinabbin.
It means almost half of the team that played in Rochester’s semi-final loss to Shepparton in September won’t be at the club next year.
While the Tigers could lose Stroobants and Marrone to the VFL, they could get one back from that system.
Former Bendigo Pioneers ace Rhys Free has signed with Rochester after two seasons with Coburg.
Free played three senior games with the Lions and 29 in the development league.
He won the Pioneers’ goal-kicking in 2015 and Flaherty was excited about what the centre half-forward would bring to the club.
‘‘Anyone who is a leading goal-kicker in the TAC Cup can play,’’ Flaherty said.
‘‘He’ll still have some development to go, but the experience at Coburg will serve him well and he’s a good young guy coming on board.’’
Flaherty said the Tigers would look to their youth for improvement, including Kyabram District Football League aces, Tallygaroopna’s Doug Wren and Jai Simmie, Stanhope’s Lachie West and Tom Hepburn.
Heathcote District Football League rising star Jackson McEwen is coming across from Leitchville-Gunbower after playing a major role in the club’s drought-breaking premiership.