The Northern Bullants are pleased to announce the signing of a further five players to its squad for the 2021 VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition season.

Previously AFL-listed midfielder Paul Ahern joins former Sydney Swans Academy member Jackson Barling and ex-Box Hill star Billy Murphy in committing to the club for the new season.

Kieran Collins and Jean Luc Velissaris, too, will return for another season, joining club champion Tom Wilson as the six players signed by the club as it begins its rebirth in the state league competition.

Ahern (selection No. 7 in the 2014 National Draft) and Collins (selection No. 26 in the 2015 National Draft) have both played senior AFL football at North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs respectively, and bring professionalism and experience to a list that is rapidly taking shape.

“For our footy club it’s recognition for the direction we’re heading that someone of Paul’s calibre thinks Preston, Northern Bullants, is going to be his home,” Bullants coach Josh Fraser told Leader Newspaper’s Ben Higgins.

“We had (former Collingwood recruiter and opposition analyst) Shane Joules join the club … we sat down and looked at the guys who had been let go from AFL lists, compiled the top five or six guys we would love to bring in, and Paul was right at the top of that list.

“We spoke to him about the club and the journey we’ve been on, the role we see him playing and how we can help him and he was really quick to commit.

“He’s still got AFL qualities and there should be a place on a list for Paul Ahern.”

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As for Collins, while injuries have hampered him in recent times, he has already built into the pre-season nicely.

“Collo hasn’t had a great run in recent times with injury but hasn’t missed a session so far,” Fraser continued.

“We believe his best footy is still in front of him and we’re really bullish about where he’s sitting.

“The beauty about Collo is we think he can hold down a key defensive post but we also think he can go forward.”

Murphy, a small forward, brings with him significant experience via Box Hill and NEAFL club Aspley, while Barling, a strongly built inside midfielder, recently plied his trade with the North Shore Bombers.

Further signing announcements will be communicated in the coming days.