EIGHT years after he retired to pursue a career as an AFL umpire, Jordan Bannister will make his playing return with VAFA club Therry Penola.
The 35-year-old, who played 67 games during a nine-year AFL career with Essendon and Carlton, was teammates with new Lions coach Dean Rioli during his time with the Bombers.
Rioli revealed he contacted Bannister, who has family ties at Therry Penola, before interviewing for the role.
“I messaged Jordan, who was in Africa with his wife, and he was pretty pumped that I was even considering the club,” Rioli said.
“Jordan was a young player when I was at Essendon and he went on to play at Carlton and to umpire. He’s done some great things.
“I have spoken with Jordan and as we speak, he’s having a kick of the football and getting himself conditioned for what will hopefully be a pretty big return for the football club.”
The 39-year-old, who served as an assistant coach at EDFL premier Aberfeldie this year and was announced as coach on Friday, said Bannister’s comeback was a significant boon for the club.
“For me, it’s great to have people who can play football,” Rioli said.
“But to have great people and especially people who are connected to the club reconnect again — that’s the exciting bit.
“Each club I have coached in the past has been really about the people. It’s about bringing quality people back to the football club and Jordan is one of those.
“He’s been away for so long. He’s excited, but I think his brothers would be even more excited to have him back playing in the Therry colours again.”
Rioli’s coaching background includes two seasons with Northern Territory club Wanderers, two years as senior coach at Aberfeldie and assistant roles with Keilor Park and Abers.
“They’re an honest football club. They’ve got some talent and they’ve got some youth coming through,” Rioli said of Therry Penola.
“I know they had some knee injuries last year which forced them to play some under-19 kids that got some senior exposure and showed they have got what it takes to play at that level.
“Anything less than finals football would be extremely disappointing, but we have to aim a lot higher.”
Rioli, who played 100 games for Essendon, will take charge of his new side for the first time at pre-season training on Monday.