Mitch Cox will play for Williamstown in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

TWELVE months after originally securing his signature, Williamstown's amazing Smithy’s VFL off-season has continued with the return of former Frankston star Mitch Cox for the 2023 season.

Cox, 25, announced his intention to join the Seagulls last year due to work commitments following a breakout season with the Dolphins that saw him finish runner-up in the 2021 Peter Geddes Medal.

But that breakout season also attracted the attention of the Brisbane Lions, who snapped him up in the Supplementary Selection Period in March.

However, despite playing 17 VFL games for the Lions and averaging 19.5 disposals and 4.9 marks and kicking six goals, he was unable to break into their strong AFL team and was surprisingly cut loose at the end of the year.

After the coups of Melbourne and Carlton 81-gamer Oscar McDonald, star defender Marty Hore and VFL legend Ben Jolley last month, the Seagulls have continued their bid to fly back up the ladder with Cox joining Casey Demons premiership swingman Corey Ellison, Dandenong Stingrays’ NAB League Morrish medallist Taj Campbell-Farrell and Sandringham’s Jack McHale, who all signed last week.

Williamstown has also lured North Melbourne’s 2021 VFL best-and-fairest winner Harry Jones and this year’s leading goalkicker Mat Walker to the club, along with East Perth utility Jack Cooley, Brisbane Lions VFL midfielder Toby Triffett and Kangaroo half-back Jack Lipscombe.

High-flying forward Nick Ebinger and experienced utility Jason Pongracic are other former Seagulls joining Jolley back in the gold sash.

Mat Walker has crossed from North Melbourne to bolster Williamstown's forward line. Picture: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

Strathmore’s Essendon and District league Division 1 best-and-fairest winner Will Jury and dual QAFL Team of the Year member Nathan Colenso have also arrived.

Star ruckman and Gerry Callahan medallist Tom Downie heads the list of 2022 Seagulls to recommit to the club, along with gun rebounder Jake Greiser, captain Cam Polson, midfield ace James Cousins, key forward Joel Ottavi, defender Finbar O’Dwyer and the next wave headed by Corey Preston, Darby Henderson, Daly Andrews, Max Philpot, Noah Gadsby, Michael Ktona and Ben Woodfull.

All that is on top of the club landing the most lucrative sponsorship deal in its history that will see Williamstown Oval rebranded as DSV Stadium.

It isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, however, with Williamstown having lost several key players, with centre half-back Harry Macreadie heading in the opposite direction to Cooley to join East Perth, defensive ball magnet Teia Miles joining Claremont and half-forward Jordan Gallucci off to South Fremantle.

Midfielders Nick Mellington (Benalla) and Liam Hunt, forwards Noah Gown (Sandringham), Corey Rich (Old Haileybury), defender Billy Myers (Darley), utility Brayden Monk (injured), midfielder Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds (Cora Lynn) and youngsters Noah Lever (Werribee), Charlie Molan (Sturt) and Lachie Stapleton (local) have also departed.

But coach Justin Plapp is confident Williamstown’s arrivals will end up outstripping the list of players who have departed.

“They’re a really high level of players (coming in) but the quality of character they bring is second to none,” Plapp said.

Star defender Teia Miles has departed Williamstown. Picture: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos

“Covid was really challenging for us, it disrupted our club from a mature age perspective – we lost a lot of those 24 to 26-year-olds that Williamstown is really renowned for, and then suddenly we’re playing 13 or 14 under-22s with not much VFL experience.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. The pressure is on to perform and Williamstown is a club with an expectation to do that, so I’m not hiding from that.

“We have lost a bit but the guys we’ve got in I think surpass what we’ve lost.”

Nick Ebinger has brought his high-flying acrobatics back to Williamstown. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL