As a Brownlow medallist and three-time premiership player with the Brisbane Lions, Jason Akermanis knows a thing or two about footy talent.
So when the current North Albury coach suggested to Werribee recruiting manager Ange Cristoforo he had a young midfielder by the name of Dom Brew who might be worth taking a look at, it was all Cristoforo needed to hear.
“[Aker] gave me his name, I had a bit of a chat with him, and I went up and watched him,” Cristoforo recalls.
“He looked above the level there, so we got him down to play a development game.”
With a hardness to his game instilled through a background in mixed martial arts, Brew soon caught the attention of other VFL clubs, even playing a Development League game with Coburg in August last year.
But through its strong ties to northeast Victoria and the Riverina and its commitment to assisting its players with their off-field careers, Werribee was ultimately able to secure the services of the 20-year-old for the 2017 season.
“It was the aspect that they were going to look after me outside of football and that there were already a few of the Ovens and Murray boys already here,” explains Brew, who is now completing his carpentry apprenticeship in Melbourne through the help of the club.
“They’re pretty close to a country club, so it feels like a home away from home.”
“The transition has been a big one, but I’m settling in now and feeling like I’m playing some good footy, so it’s good.”
Brew’s form in the Development League has indeed been strong, so much so that he now finds himself preparing to make his VFL debut as 23rd man against the Northern Blues this weekend. Even without a senior game to his name yet, he has already developed a reputation for the hard-nosed approach that first caught Cristoforo’s eye.
“He’s an absolute bull,” says Cristoforo. “He’s hard at the ball, a genuine inside midfielder who lives and dies by the contest and is willing to back his teammate.
“An old-fashioned type football, he is. They don’t build them like they used to, but he’s an old-fashioned footballer.”
Senior coach John Lamont has been similarly impressed with his young charge, and while he acknowledges the big step-up required in adapting from the Ovens and Murray League to the VFL, he believes Brew has embraced the challenge and will benefit from the chance to play alongside and learn from the senior group.
“He’s had a massive learning curve,” says Lamont.
“In practice matches, he was holding onto the ball too long and then just hack kicking a bit, but he’s definitely adjusted his game.
“He’s a young player, of course, so he’s still got plenty of improvement in him.
“He gets the opportunity to play with Andrew Swallow through the middle, so I’m sure he’ll learn a bit from playing with Andrew, and he’ll get good support from the likes of [Tom] Gribble and [Matt] Hanson.”
Brew’s toughness in the contest hasn’t been lost on Lamont, who believes his new recruit’s time in the cage has played a role in developing some of his strongest attributes on the footy field.
“With those martial arts, a controlled aggression is important, as it is in footy, so I think knowing how to train and prepare himself for that, it probably stands him in good stead.”
Brew and the rest of the Werribee side will kick off against the Northern Blues at 2:10pm on Saturday at Ikon Park in Carlton North.
The VFL match will follow the AFL Victoria Development League game at 11am and will be broadcast live and free on Channel 7 from 2pm.