Wangaratta has received an unexpected early Christmas present with Patrick Naish committing full-time.
The former Richmond and West Coast player had signed with Carlton VFL in mid-November and was looking to utilise Wangaratta as his second club.
It's one of the Ovens and Murray Football League's biggest signings of the off-season, which started with a host of early recruits before quietening over the past fortnight.
"His workload has increased, so it was really hard to commit full-time to VFL, there's obviously more commitments at that higher level, so we're rapt he's made the decision to join us full-time," delighted Pies' coach Ben Reid said.
Naish played 20 games in the AFL, with nine at Richmond (2018-21) where his father and Wangaratta product Chris played 143 games (1990-1997), along with 11 at the Eagles (2022).
He spent this year at Old Ivanhoe in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
"He was actually going to come to us last season, but then when the points decision was handed down, we had a really hard decision, so we went with our local players and Pat was fully understanding, but it would have been frustrating for him, no doubt," Reid revealed.
Wangaratta was forced to play the 2023 season with only 36 player points, instead of 40, as one of the sanctions handed down after being found guilty of breaking the salary cap in 2022.
Naish, who turns 25 next month, mainly played wing and half-back at the highest level, with his elite kicking and running the standouts.
"He could probably play anywhere, at the moment we've got a fair few midfielders, so we'll need to work out where he will best fit the team," Reid added.
The Pies have had a cracking off-season, signing Brad Melville full-time after his Richmond VFL stint, along with West Preston Lakeside duo Alex Federico, who is great mates with Naish, and Aidan Tilley, whose father Paul played alongside Chris Naish at Wangaratta.
The Pies start their season at home against Wangaratta Rovers on Good Friday and the quality of off-season signings by the pair will guarantee a bumper crowd.