Werribee recruit Louis Pinnuck has never been afraid of a bit of hard yakka.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in Strathmerton in north east Victoria, the 18-year-old Murray Bushrangers product has done his share of work on the family property.
“He always did milking and helped with the hay and tractor work in the holidays and things like that,” recalls his mother, Paula Hansen.
“In hay season, he wouldn’t mind staying on the tractor and raking until three in the morning if he had to.”
Throwing in up to two hours of travel to get to footy training would no doubt prove too much for most teenagers in the same position, but Pinnuck embraced the challenge.
“He was always so keen,” says Hansen, who is also the treasurer at Strathmerton, where her son played his junior football.
“Before he got right into footy, he used to also be really good at tennis, and he represented the region in the state comp as a junior.
“He’s just a really self-motivated kid. We’ve never pushed him to do anything more. We even tried to encourage him to have a bit more time out now and then.”
It’s perhaps little wonder, then, that Pinnuck has adapted so well to the rigours of elite football, having earned a call-up to make his VFL debut for the Tigers against Collingwood this weekend.
Overlooked in last year’s AFL draft despite initial interest from a number of clubs, he flirted with the idea of a move to South Australia to try his hand in the SANFL.
But with Werribee having turned Victoria’s north east into something of a recruiting zone in recent years, the chance to line up alongside friends and fellow Bushrangers products was too good to pass up.
“There was a heap of country blokes here already,” Pinnuck says of his decision to commit to the Tigers.
“It just makes it a lot more comfortable. There are a lot of good people here. Obviously, it’s a lot closer than Adelaide, but I’ve really enjoyed the people here as well, so that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
“You can talk to them about your old local club back at Strathy or Mitta Mitta or wherever it is, so you’ve got common ground there.”
Along with best friend and now roommate Harry Boyd, who also made the trip south to Avalon Airport Oval after finishing up at the Bushrangers last year, Pinnuck has thrived in his new environment, earning his senior call-up as 23rd man on the back off a three-goal haul running off the wing in a recent game for the club’s development side.
Senior coach John Lamont has been impressed with Pinnuck’s versatility and sees him as being able to play roles both in the midfield and down back.
“He’s asking a lot of the right questions, he competes well, he’s got the ability to absorb pressure, and he generally makes good decisions with the ball when he’s kicking it,” says Lamont.
“He’s made a really positive start, and he’s one we identified early who we thought would be an early 23rd player.”
There will be an extra special element to Pinnuck’s debut, with Werribee having taken the game to Wangaratta’s Norm Minns Oval due to the current redevelopment of Avalon Airport Oval.
It’s a match that provides an opportunity for the Tigers to engage with a community that has served their talent pool so well in recent years, but it also gives Pinnuck the chance to play in front of friends, family, and former teammates at the Bushrangers’ home base.
“I’m pretty nervous, actually,” Pinnuck says. “I got the call on Monday and gave everyone a ring, and the nerves are starting to kick in now.”
“But I’m very excited. I’ve played on the ground a fair few times before, so I feel a bit more comfortable.”
The rest of the family are also thrilled by the opportunity, but true to form, it’s just one part of a busy, busy day.
“His sister is making her deb ball that night, so it’s going to be a huge day,” says Hansen.
“We’ve got debuts all around.”
Pinnuck and the rest of the Werribee team take on Collingwood at 2:10pm on Saturday at Norm Minns Oval in Wangaratta and follow the TAC Cup curtain raiser between the Murray Bushrangers and the Sandringham Dragons at 11:45am.