The Ovens and Murray will field one of its fittest players, who’s tackled a sub-three hour marathon, as well as one of sport’s most gruelling events, the Ironman.
Justin Perkins played four matches with North Melbourne in 2005, and has spent the past decade at a number of clubs, including the Port Adelaide Magpies, where he lived with current Myrtleford star Brad Murray.
The 34-year-old took last year off to focus on his running, where he’s completed the marathon, as well as the brutal 3.8km swim, 180k bike leg and 42.2k run in the Ironman.
“I probably lost the passion a little bit for footy, I always wanted to do a marathon, and had some other interests, I got into triathlons,” he said.
“I guess an Ironman was a bucket list item, so I ticked that one off.”
Perkins took 10½ hours to complete the Ironman.
He admits he’ll have to adopt a different fitness now.
“Just that explosiveness of footy, I can go out and run for a couple of hours, no worries at all, but that high-impact explosive movement that comes with footy, that’s definitely a different fitness altogether,” he said.
“But I still feel that I’ve got a little bit to offer, my body still feels great, I’m still as fit as I’ve ever been.”
Perkins is teaching in Wangaratta, but has bought a house with his wife Brigid in Yarrawonga.
Brigid is a key signing for the Pigeons in O&M netball.
“Now I’ve relocated, it’s a good way to find my place in the community a little bit,” he said.
“Most of the people I’ve met, or got connections with in Yarrawonga, are all connected to the footy club.
“I want to still play at the level, my fitness and experience will hopefully be enough to get me by.”
Pigeons’ co-coach Chris Kennedy says the 188cm Perkins will be extremely versatile.
“He’s a very athletic runner, and his experience will also help,” he said.
“He’s very measured in the way he goes about things, and he’ll add a lot of professionalism to the list.”
It caps a promising off-season for the Pigeons, who’ve signed two of the league’s three players with AFL experience.
Former GWS and Carlton player Mark Whiley is the only one directly from an AFL club, while Wangaratta signed ex-North Melbourne midfielder Ben Speight on Thursday.
“We think we had a real positive season last year and there’s a fair bit of hunger in the group,” Kennedy said.
“Last year we didn’t have a lot of luck go our way with injuries to (Nick) Lawless and (Tim) Cooper, but we get them back on our list.”
Yarrawonga contested six successive grand finals against Albury from 2009, winning two.
It’s lost the last two preliminary finals to Lavington.