Jarrod Ardern has revealed how close he came to quitting footy this summer.
The 21-year-old small forward has signed for Dederang-Mt Beauty after leaving Wodonga Raiders but had no plans to play at all.
After almost a decade at Birallee Park, a troublesome back injury had seen Ardern fall out of love with the game and ready to hang up the boots for good.
"I've been injured for a while so I wasn't planning on playing football," he said.
"The last two years, even though we haven't played a lot of footy, I've struggled, body-wise.
"I've had a bad back for 22 months and once your back goes, everything else goes.
"Playing against bigger bodies, battling as a smaller bloke, getting hit every week... and not doing the right things off the field too, immaturity stuff.
"When I signed last week, it was the first time I'd thought about playing footy."
Ardern's father, Mark, coached the Bombers to their last TDFL premiership, in 2003, and the family connection remains strong today.
"Once we got word that Jarrod was potentially looking for a change of scenery, he went straight to the top of our list," Bombers head of recruitment Gus MacLeod said.
"Chatting with Jarrod, it was evident that coming to the football club where his Dad's got such a rich history and where he spent a lot of time as a young kid was quite appealing to him.
"Picking up Jarrod is a massive bonus for us.
"But the small forward role was something we didn't have secured and Jarrod will slot into our forward line beautifully."
Ardern played four games in the Raiders senior side last season and four in the reserves.
"This wasn't an easy decision," he said.
"I've played at Raiders since I was 12 so I know the club very well but for me, it's about starting a new chapter, a fresh start and enjoying football again.
"When you have multiple injuries and you're playing injured year after year, it's not a lot of fun.
"I gave everything to the Raiders.
"I learnt everything I needed to know about senior football when Daryn Cresswell came in, worked hard and got my fitness up so I have nothing bad to say about Raiders.
"But this is a new chapter and a fresh start.
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"My family will enjoy being out there and I know they're going to be competitive so I'm excited to play footy again."
The Bombers believe Ardern's pace and foot skills will rival anyone in the league.
"We're often seeing that through people who have been at the club for a long time and some new people, their mates are starting to come along.
"Even if it's to play in the seconds, they just want to be around the club.
"We've got that real buzz around the TDFL that we're starting to create something special."
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