Talented spearhead Will Ford and premiership greats Tim Barton and Beau McNamara are the latest confirmed departures from Bell Post Hill.
Ford, who won consecutive league goalkicking awards after crossing from Winchelsea ahead of the 2022 season, has taken a job on a farm in the Southern Riverina and will play with Turvey Park this year.
He kicked 89 goals in 17 games in his first season at Myers Reserve, with a two-match mid-season suspension costing him the chance to top the ton.
Ford backed that up with 73 goals in 20 games in 2023 as the Panthers fell just short of a first grand final berth in six years.
“He’s loving life working on the farm up there,” Bell Post Hill co-coach Justin Tarr said.
“There was a little bit of talk about maybe coming back during winter and playing a few games, but it’s probably not the right thing for him or us.
“He did kick 160 goals in two years for us, so it’s unfortunate to lose him.
“But, if he ever moves back down to Victoria, I think he’ll come back to us.”
Barton and McNamara have joined fellow premiership Panthers Caleb Bacely, Nick Costello, Ren Lovitt and Dylan Witney in joining Great Western in the Mininera and District League.
Barton featured in five of the seven flags Bell Post Hill won between 2010-2017, with McNamara appearing in five after missing the last two while enjoying a GFNL stint at Grovedale.
In all, 28 premierships worth of experience have headed out the door, with Liam Meyrich also departing along with Tarneit-bound Luke Mann.
“What more could you ask for (from them),” Tarr said.
“‘Cubby’ (Bacely), Beau Mac and Tim all played junior footy with us.
“A lot of them played 200 games … every single one played 100.
“Nick Costello, Ren Lovitt and Dylan Witney they’ve given great service to the club.
“The legacy they believe behind for the new group of players, I think that’s one thing they can be really proud of.”
Tarr has confirmed the arrival of Dylan Godwin from Central Murray club Woorinen.
Originally from Hamilton, where he has some senior Hampden League experience, the versatile Godwin has also played with PINT in the Northern Territory.
“He trained with us last year when he was playing in Swan Hill,” Tarr said.
“We were really keen to get him to our club. He was thinking about going to the GFL – he was training with Leopold.
“But he lives with (current Panther) Sam Quinn, played junior footy with him, and I think both their dads played together as well.
“So there’s a good connection there.
Former Portland player Harry McIntyre will be like a recruit for Tarr and co-coach Ash Witney after breaking his leg in Round 4.
“I rate him highly,” Tarr said. “I think he’s going to be a good player for us.
“Hopefully, he can get some luck with his body.”
Tarr is also excited about seeing more of injury-prone midfielder Jordy Sabell.
Since joining Bell Post Hill, he’s managed just 24 of the 53 games played since the start of the 2021 season.
“He’s broken a bone every year that he’s been playing with us,” Tarr said.
“He came off 12 weeks with an ankle and broke his arm first week back last year.
“He’s an absolute gun; I think he’s one of best midfielders in the comp.
“He just hasn’t had a chance to show it.”
Bell Post Hill will play Western Region club Wyndhamvale in a practice match on March 23 before a challenging opening fortnight of the season.
The Panthers will meet semi-final opponent East Geelong at Richmond Crescent to start its campaign before hosting reigning premier Inverleigh at Myers Reserve in Round 2.