WODONGA Raiders’ horror off-season could get worse, with the club facing an uphill battle to keep star defender Dean Heta at Birallee Park.
Heta has accepted a job at the Royal Melbourne hospital and his work hours look certain to prove a sticking point.
Heta, who is coming off the best season of his career, said he wanted to remain a Raider but was weighing up how realistic that option would be as he battled weekend work and the three-hour commute to the Border each week.
Heta said he had not made a decision and was still talking to club officials about his future.
“I really respect the Raiders and the people involved with the club and together we’ll announce something if and when there’s something to announce,” Heta said.
“The work opportunity was too good to pass up.
“I’m still talking to the club, though, and there’s definitely a chance I’ll be back.”
The loss of Heta, who finished third in the club’s best-and-fairest award last year, would be another savage blow for new Raiders coach Ken Stevenson as he dealt with a mass exodus.
Club champion Ben Davies, Doug Strang medallist Patty Rose, David Stretton, Scott Meyer, Luke Schilg, Aydan Brown and Eddie Prato headline the high-profile list of departures from Birallee Park over the summer.
Jack Price, Josh McCudden, Tyson Bradsworth, Tom Cencic, Daniel Cassidy and recent Myrtleford signing Reece Corcoran have also left, stinging the Raiders of valuable depth.
They have since added promising Melbourne trio Dean Limbach, Michael Steven and Dean Giles, but look to be falling out of the finals race as the season gets closer.
Heta enjoyed his most consistent season at Birallee Park last year and earned selection in The Border Mail’s Team of the Year.
He has continually knocked back offers from district clubs on the Border and had his loyalty to the Raiders rewarded by playing game 100 for the club last year.