NORTH Albury has vowed to play hard ball with all contracted players who try to leave the embattled club.
In a major bombshell, Doug Strang medallist Adam Prior confirmed on the weekend he had quit the Hoppers to join rival club Lavington on a two-year deal, despite having signed a contract to play for the Hoppers this season.
North is also fighting to keep captain Daniel Leslie and assistant coach Matt McDonald.
McDonald has been heavily targeted by several Hume league clubs but he, too, is a contracted player with the Hoppers.
New president Mark Cronin said yesterday any contracted player would be expected to remain with the club.
“We will look at any clearance application on its merits but, in relation to our contracted players, the club fully intends to enforce those contracts.”
Prior has cited the financial crisis engulfing North Albury as the major reason behind him switching camp to Lavington.
The three-time Ovens and Murray leading goalkicker attended the Hoppers’ annual meeting last week when the club revealed it had a debt of $123,000 — including $72,000 in unpaid player payments from last season.
Prior was also locked in a clearance wrangle with East Perth early last season as he sought to be released from the second year of his contract with the WAFL club.
He missed the Hoppers’ opening match of the season before the clubs agreed on a $15,000 settlement fee.
Another high-profile Hopper, Kane Godde, has opted to join Thurgoona.
His move has compounded a troublesome off-season at Bunton Park.
Godde is expected to have no trouble gaining a clearance as an uncontracted player.
Kade Brown (Thurgoona), Brian Durbidge (Cairns), Ben Ryan, Josh Senior, Nick Sheridan (Murray Magpies), Chris Taylor (Beechworth), Joel Price (Howlong) and Ash Sibraa (Yackandandah) are other confirmed departures.
Former St Kilda star Jason Gram still hasn’t re-signed and four-time best and fairest winner Brandon Ryan is yet to decide where he will play this year.
In another blow, Brock-Burrum recruit Kylin Morey has returned to his former club.
He has been training with the Saints for a fortnight.