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Ruggles returns to Leopold

Former Geelong defender Tom Ruggles has returned to Leopold. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Al Packer)

TOM Ruggles has signed with former club Leopold.

The Lions have this afternoon confirmed the 25-year-old will return to Memorial Park on a two-year deal after the delisted Geelong defender failing to find a home in the national or rookie drafts.

New Leopold coach Guy Morphet says Ruggles only put pen to paper yesterday, with the club giving him plenty of space after he was axed by the Cats after 22 games in two season last month.

“My main priority for Tom was to still keep his options open to play AFL football,” he said.

“And when that didn’t eventuate, it didn’t take much talking.

“Tom always indicated to us he wanted to come back and play football with his mates if he didn’t get drafted.

“We really didn’t have to talk to him much. I left him alone through that period because his main focus was to concentrate on the draft, and then if that didn’t eventuate we would speak to him in due course.

“It all happened pretty quickly.”

Ruggles is the second player to join Leopold straight off an AFL list, with Billie Smedts signing earlier this month.

“Both of those boys are adaptable,” Morphet said. “Tom’s more suited to half back and maybe a role in the midfield, and we can play Billie all over the ground.

“We’ve been pretty conscious of the players that we’ve targeted.

“(Port Melbourne recruit) Tom Gordon can also play that backline role as well.

“We feel like we’ve got a really good balance, and we’re really happy with the recruits we’ve got on board.”

Morphet says Ruggles been offered a role as senior assistant coach, but is yet to decide whether he will take that up.

“Tom’s indicated coaching is something he’d liked to get into one day,” he said. “Whether that’s this year, whether that’s next year, we’ll wait and see.

“But, at the moment, we’ve just said to Tom to take the pressure off himself and really just enjoy his footy again.”

A Drysdale junior, Ruggles played in the Hawks’ 2009 BFL premiership as a 17-year-old, before spending a year with the Geelong Falcons in 2010.

After going undrafted, he joined Werribee for three years.

Following his departure from the Tigers, Ruggles signed with Leopold, playing a key a role as the Lions won their first GFL minor premiership and made their inaugural grand final appearance in local football’s top flight.

It was enough to earn him an invite to train with Geelong’s VFL team ahead of the 2015 season.

He would go on to win the Cats’ best-and-fairest, which resulted in him being rookie drafted at the end of that year.

Ruggles made his debut in Round 3, 2016, playing 18 games in his first season, including the memorable qualifying final win over Hawthorn.

He featured in the opening four rounds of 2017, however after suffering a concussion in the Easter Monday win over Hawthorn following a collision with Josh Gibson he was unable to get back into the AFL team.

A dislocated collarbone mid-season didn’t help his cause, nor did the form of the likes of Zach Tuohy and Jed Bews in the Geelong defence.

Twitter: @tom_king79