East Wagga-Kooringal have landed one of the recruitment coups of the off-season by landing the signing of Wagga Tigers premiership captain Nick Ryan.
Just over a month after he held the Riverina League premiership cup aloft, Ryan will make the switch to the Hawks.
A long-held plan to have a year with mates was the main reason behind Ryan's decision and the Hawks are delighted to welcome the two-time premiership Tiger on board.
In a two-pronged coup for the Farrer League grand finalists, EWK have also signed former Northern Jets best and fairest winner Alex Rogers.
Ryan, 25, is looking forward to a new challenge at Gumly Oval.
"I wouldn't have signed with the club if I didn't think they were going in the right direction," Ryan said.
"It was obviously a massive call. I've played with Tigers my whole life. It's huge but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I've got a lot of close mates here and we've sort of talked about it for a number of years. East Wagga popped up with a phone call and next thing I ended up signing on with them."
The addition of Ryan and Rogers could not have come at a better time for EWK, who lost this year's grand final to North Wagga.
The Hawks had already lost their captain Ben Absolum to Collingullie-Glenfield Park and leading goalkicker Chris Ladhams back to South Australia.
EWK coach Matt Hard said signings don't come much better than Ryan.
"I'm ecstatic, not only to get a very good footballer but a quality person to come across," Hard said.
"Everyone you talk to about Nicko holds him in very high regard. He's highly-respected throughout the Riverina so to get him on board to our footy club, I'm ecstatic.
"That probably makes it a bit more significant, that we've picked up a premiership captain from the RFL. He's obviously a Tigers junior and a Tigers boy so it's a very big coup that's for sure."
Ryan said it was a difficult decision to leave Wagga Tigers but also conceded that last month's premiership triumph helped make the move.
"I've played there my whole life. I never thought I'd play anywhere else but we talked about this a few years ago and one thing came to another and I ended up signing on," he said.
"If we lost that (grand final) I wouldn't have moved. I would have felt like something wasn't finished off at the club but I think I left on a good note and I'll always be back no matter what.
"Whether it's the following year or a couple of years down the track I don't know yet but I'll definitely be back at Tigers. It was difficult but you don't know if you don't try things."
Ryan has played 126 senior games for Tigers and kicked 177 goals. He will slot into the Hawks midfield, while also spending time forward.
"Nick will probably play both those roles, mid and forward, and adds that quality around the ground, not to mention his leadership. He brings so many good traits to our football club," Hard said.
"We'll definitely be richer for having him here that's for sure."
Rogers is also a big get for the Hawks. He spent last season at Cairns where he won most consistent in a grand final team.
Before then he won a best and fairest at Northern Jets in 2017 and was a premiership player at Coolamon in 2013.
"We're very happy to get Alex on board. He's a quality player that can play back, mid, forward, he's a real utility and he's at the right age at that 25 mark where he's really going to add to us, that's for sure.," Hard said.