It’s not every day a player gets to make his VFL debut on the big stage of Etihad Stadium. It’s even rarer for two players to do it for the same club on the same day.
Yet that is the exact situation Harry Boyd and Tristan Xerri will find themselves in when they run out for Werribee against Collingwood today.
The parallels between the two don’t end there. At 196cm and 93kg and 202cm and 95kg respectively, Boyd and Xerri both cut imposing figures on the footy field.
Neither one should be overawed by the occasion, either, both having played on the Etihad deck before – Boyd as a member of the Murray Bushrangers side in last year’s TAC Cup Grand Final, Xerri as part of this year’s NAB AFL U18 Championships-winning Vic Metro side.
But the two have travelled somewhat different paths to arrive at the same point.
Having graduated from the TAC Cup system at the end of last year, 19-year-old Boyd left Shepparton for the big smoke after joining Bushrangers teammate Louis Pinnuck – another Tigers debutante this year – in signing on for his first year at Avalon Airport Oval.
He has toiled hard in the Development League in the time since, regularly finishing among the side’s best as a key defender but also showing an ability to push forward or pinch hit in the ruck.
“He played a really good game in the backline [against Port Melbourne] last week and now gets his opportunity, so we’re really excited for him,” senior coach John Lamont says of his charge.
“He’s had to work hard after having a bit of a later start to the pre-season, waiting for uni to start and so forth, but he’s done well.”
While it is Boyd’s performances in defence that have earned him a call-up, Lamont says he may well need to make use of the versatility he has shown throughout the season.
“He’ll start in the backline, but he could find himself in the ruck or up forward,” says Lamont.
“It’s going to be an interesting battle of match-ups at both ends of the ground, as Collingwood have got some real height in their team.”
In contrast to Boyd, Xerri has been plucked straight from the TAC Cup system and has had to travel a much shorter distance, having been something of a standout this year as a ruckman and key forward with the Western Jets.
With the 18-year-old having also played a starring role in Caroline Springs’ WRFL Division 2 premiership last year, Lamont said it was pleasing to be able to provide a local player with an opportunity as part of Werribee’s commitment to developing young talent.
“We needed a ruckman, and we knew there was a Wyndham-based 200cm ruckman at the Western Jets,” says Lamont.
“Through our work with [Jets talent manager] Shane Sexton, it’s been great that we can give Tristan the opportunity at Etihad.”
The debuts of Boyd and Xerri are a reflection of Werribee’s strong ties with both the Bushrangers and the Jets.
Bushrangers products Pinnuck, Kyle Galloway, Jade Cleeland, and Nick Richards all debuted for the club earlier this year, while Xerri’s former Jets teammate Nick Buykx has made a very impressive start to his time at Avalon Airport Oval this year.
Boyd and Xerri will run out for Werribee at Etihad Stadium at 3:45pm today.
IMAGE: Harry Boyd in action for Werribee’s development side; Tristan Xerri with Werribee football operations manager – and former fellow Western Jet – Stuart Balloch.