Whittlesea has added some extra experience as it makes the move back into Northern Football League division 1.

Having claimed the division 2 premiership this year, the Eagles will again head back into the top division and are keen to stay there.

They announced the first of their recruits last week and started off with a bang with former St Kilda player Bailey Rice among the signings.

Rice played eight AFL games in 2018 but wasn’t able to break through for a game this year. He was delisted at the end of the season.

The son of former St Kilda and Carlton player Dean Rice, Bailey is expected to give the Eagles midfield a boost.

Eagles coach Blair Harvey said they had signed Rice a few weeks ago, but had to wait and see whether he was picked up in the AFL rookie draft, where there had been some interest.

“We’re really lucky to get him,” Harvey said.

“I know his dad, and Dean said a month ago that he might be delisted and looking for somewhere to play. There was a lot of clubs after him.

“He’s 22-years-old and is coming in the prime of his career, rather than finishing up his career with his best football behind him.

“He will add the midfield and will help Xavier Dimasi.”

Two of Rice’s mates Tyson Buttie and Nick Stevanevic have also joined the Eagles from Beaconsfield.

Buttie is a hard-running player with a lot of composure with ball in hand, while Stevanevic has made a name for himself at half-back and is known for his leadership skills.

Harvey said he expected both to play on the flanks.

Former player Sam Peet, who has been in the VFL system the past few years, returns to the Eagles.

Peet last played for the Eagles in 2017 when he played two senior games as an 18-year-old. Standing at 201 centimetres tall, Peet will add some ruck depth to the side.

Harvey said they were hoping to get some big improvement from him after spending a few years away from the club developing his game.

Both Peet and Rice will play at the club full-time after deciding not to play VFL next season.

Harvey said 21 of this year’s premiership players have re-signed meaning they have kept their core group together.

He said the aim was simple next year, to stay up in division 1.

“We’re looking to add six or seven new players to the side adds depth and puts pressure on, so they can’t come complacent.”

Whittlesea has four players, Chris McCabe, Brody Bell, Jaron Murphy and Zach Molloy, training with VFL side, the Northern Blues.

Harvey said they wouldn’t know until later in the pre-season whether they had made the final squad.

“They’re young footballers pushing to be better footballers, which is a good thing,” he said.