HARROW-BALMORAL will have to hunt for a third consecutive Horsham District football league premiership without one of its most potent midfielders.
After months of speculation, Eric Guthrie has departed the Southern Roos for personal reasons, moving to Darwin with his partner.
Guthrie returned to his home club in 2019 and had a remarkable season, claiming best on ground honours in both the grand final and the Horsham District league's Interleague match.
The lightening-quick left-footer booted 31 goals across 15 games last season, finishing two-votes behind a trio of winners at the 2019 Dellar Medal count.
Harrow-Balmoral head coach Nick Pekin said Guthrie's departure was a big loss for the two-time reigning premiers.
Pekin however backed his side's midfield depth, and a newcomer returning from injury to help fill the void.
"He's a great player, there's no doubt about that," Pekin said.
"But to lose such a quality player, I'm hoping we just get other guys like Pete Staude, Will Plush or Hamish Ellis to step up to the plate.
"Digby Sangster is another - he did his knee prior to round one last year, but he's looking really good, kicking goals pre-season and looking for a return in round one.
"I'm looking for Digby to help fill that void left by Eric."
Pekin said Guthrie would be welcomed back to the club if the right opportunity presented itself.
Pekin however said he would be conflicted about a potential mid-season return.
"With our junior kids coming through and training hard, I wouldn't feel right about flying him back for three games just to qualify him for finals, if that came about," Pekin said.
"It wouldn't sit right with me, and it wouldn't sit right with the playing group, I don't think.
"In saying that, if he didn't enjoy it up there and we knew he was coming back to live down here, we would obviously love to welcome him back to the club."
It has been a mostly quiet off-season for the Southern Roos, with key position player Jack Beaton the most notable inclusion, adding more height to an already stacked senior side.
Pekin said rather than welcoming new recruits, he was looking forward to a handful of talented juniors stepping up into the seniors.
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