Former Essendon defender Tayte Pears is the latest player to join the new-look Melton South Football outfit.
Pears is the fourth former AFL player to join the Panthers during the off season, with co-coach Brendan Fevola the biggest name to join the Ballarat Football League side.
Co-coach Sean Tripplett said there was excitement about what Pears could do at the club. He said Pears fielded a number of offers from other clubs before deciding on the Panthers.
Pears played 70 games for Essendon. He was one of 34 past and present Bombers players suspended last season by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
With the suspension finished, Pears decided not to return to the Bombers and instead focus on a career as a firefighter. He’s hoping to be placed at a station this year.
“I’ve had a relationship with Tayte for a while, as has Brendan,” Tripplett said. “His best mate is Nick Kommer [who has also joined the Panthers]. He just wants to get back to enjoying football.
“He was stiff the last few years, with injuries, not to play more games. He just wants to get back to a relaxed environment after eight years in the AFL system.”
Tripplett said Pears’ AFL experience would be a big help for the young playing group. He said that despite Pears playing most of his AFL career as a defender, they saw his best spot at the other end of the ground.
“We’ll probably look for him to play forward or in the midfield,” he said. “I’ve seen him play forward when I was a scout for Greater Western Sydney. He’s a personal trainer so he’s fit enough to play in the middle.”
The signing follows the news that Mitch Banner has committed to the club full time. He originally planned to play VFL football with Williamstown, but work commitments have prevented that.
Tripplett said Banner, who played all his junior football at Melton South before being drafted, was excited about returning to the club.
The Panthers, who didn’t win a game last season, are hoping the new faces will transform them. Pears, Kommer, Banner and Fevola will be joined by Mark Lynch, brothers Adam and Mozzie Houli and former Panther Ben Peters.
The Panthers have gone to appeal to try and bring back Matt Notman, who is under contract at Melton.
The Panthers will start their season on April 8 against Melton.