FORMER St Kilda utility Jason Gram has joined the growing list of high-profile names in the Ovens and Murray league.
Gram, who was sacked by the Saints at the end of last season because of off-field behaviour issues has signed with North Albury, coached by Jason Akermanis.
The 28-year-old joins a competition, which already boasts Brendan Fevola, Kayne Pettifer, and could yet include Damian Cupido and Brad Ottens.
Akermanis, who is the midst of his first pre-season as playing coach of the Hoppers, said Gram’s signature was a significant coup for the club.
"When we found he was still on the market I quickly texted him and said you might not be thinking about us, but you probably should," Akermanis told Weekly Times Now.
"He (Gram) let us know what the offers were everywhere else and we were able to match them quite easily."
While Akermanis would not divulge what Gram would receive for his services, he said it was not in the same ball park as the $5000 a game that Fevola was rumoured to be earning as he powered Yarrawonga to last year's Ovens and Murray league flag.
"It's bit ridiculous with what he’s (Fevola) getting but if someone is willing to pay that than good luck to him," Akermanis said.
"Gram deserves every cent because he's going to put bums on seats and, while you get a sign on fee, you still have to play to be paid."
Akermanis said the club's facilities and location was also a major factor in helping to get the deal done and persuading Gram to ignore the Hoppers' last-placed finish in 2012.
"I said you wouldn’t have to worry about that (being competitive), it's chalk and cheese, just with the number of new players and the players coming back from injury," Akermanis said.
"In the end he didn’t choose the money. He said the best thing for me, and his dad agreed, was to get out of Melbourne. Albury is a long way away and you can just relax and enjoy your footy."
In what looms as one of the highlights on the country football calendar; Gram, Akermanis - and possibly Cupido – are scheduled to meet Fevola and co when North Albury faces Yarrawonga in Round 2 on Saturday, April 6.
"That first game at home, we’ll have Fev, Me, Grammy (Jason Gram) and possibly Damian Cupido – we’re still in negotiations with him. We’ll put them all in the mix, plus all of the other recruits we’ve got and it will just be a massive day for everyone at the club," Akermanis said.
The Brownlow medallist, who says he is relishing his first senior coaching position, said he would take lessons from all of his senior coaches at AFL level.
"I think I’ll use bits and pieces from them all. From Wallsy (Robert Walls), even John Northey, but most of all from Leigh (Matthews) who was really structured like me, and Rodney (Eade) who’s tactics were fantastic."