Melrose’s efforts to claw their way back to the top of the AWFA senior men’s ladder have been aided by securing the services of Ben Chaffey and Shane Ellwood.
Chaffey returns to his home club having spent time at Murray United where he won the best and fairest in 2015, while Ellwood played for Boomers through his junior years and impressed at under 20s level for Murray.
Melrose coach Kade Rixon is rapt to have them on board.
“Ben is a local boy and goes away for uni in Newcastle, but he’s back for five or six weeks from now and he comes back to visit his family during the year, so he’ll be important,” Rixon said.
“Everyone loves him around the group, so whenever you mention the name Ben Chaffey down at Melrose, people get excited.
“He’s pencilled in for six to seven games and the finals as well, so it’s super-important for us to get him on board.
“He’s the sort of guy that can play anywhere in the midfield or down back, so we’ll put him wherever he can best fit our mix at the moment.”
Rixon admitted he had been on the hunt for Ellwood since he departed Murray last December.
“He said he wasn’t really interested at the start of the year and wanted a bit of a break from it,” Rixon said.
“Up until two months ago, I was still trying to get him on board, but his best mate Dylan Howe plays at the club, so I then gave Howey the task of going after him.
“I received a message on Saturday night that he wanted to come play.
“He’d be in the top 10 in the league, he’s a very good player and someone I rate very highly.
“He’s in that 21-22 age bracket of young kids that just want to play soccer.”
Meanwhile, Wangaratta has bolstered its already potent attack with the addition of Goulburn North East Football Association legend Stuart Vance.
The veteran striker has won multiple league best and fairest and goal scoring awards and will form a dangerous combination with the league’s leading scorer Adam Burchell.
Devils’ assistant coach Mario Antonello said the Scottish export will make a huge difference in the second half of the season.
“He’s 37-years-old now and he’s still one of the fittest players, he’s really looked after himself outside of soccer,” Antonello said.
“We’ve been missing that focal point up front, someone that can kill five or six seconds of time, not give the ball away and just be a big target for us.
“We haven’t had that in the first half of the year and it probably cost us a couple of games that we should of won.
“Burchy (Adam Burchell) was taking the best defender and George Elkotta would always get the second.
“What we’re finding now is the best defenders, usually the centre backs, have to mark Stu and it leaves Burch a bit more free.”
Off-season signing Brendan Barton played his first game for Wangaratta in the reserves on Sunday and is also expected to play an important role in the senior side down the stretch.
“He played FFA Cup against Myrtleford and ruptured a tendon in between his toes and had to have an operation to get it attached again,” Antonello said.
“He’s still got a few plates in his foot, but once he finds fitness, he’ll be another player we’ll look forward to getting into the starting 11.”