There are more than a few similarities in the football journeys of Werribee’s Charlie Bance and Brydan Hodgson.
The presence of the pair at Avalon Airport Oval speaks to the Tigers’ strong affinity with the Riverina region, 19-year-old Bance having been recruited to the club from the Wagga Tigers and 20-year-old Hodgson having made his way over the border from Eastlake (now Canberra Demons) via the Lavington Panthers.
Both have also had their share of injury battles, Bance sidelined for a good chunk of this year with an ankle injury and Hodgson sitting out the entire 2016 season with hip and groin troubles.
Most significantly, though, both can now count themselves as VFL players, having made their debuts against the Northern Blues at Preston City Oval on Saturday.
The announcement proved to be something of a low-key one, uncertainties around team selection meaning neither player could be officially confirmed in the team until match day, but Bance says he was happy simply to get his opportunity.
“I didn’t really have too much indication leading up into the week,” he recalls.
“Then they said I was in the squad on the Thursday, so I went to work on Friday just hoping for a call or text from [coach John Lamont] saying I was in the side.
“Eventually, I got that. From there, I was pretty stoked and ready to go.”
It was a fitting reward for both players given their persistence and determination in the face of adversity.
Having only returned to the Development League ranks two rounds earlier, Bance managed to finish among Werribee’s best two weeks in a row playing through the midfield, while Hodgson has consistently been one of the development side’s most important players in his role as a hard-running defender despite missing most of the pre-season.
Bance makes no secret of his desire to play senior football, admitting he “wanted to tick that box off this year”, though Hodgson is somewhat more philosophical given his long-term issues.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster the past couple of years,” he says.
“I didn’t play any footy last year with my groin and hip, and this year has been a bit of a grind as well, as I missed most of pre-season carrying those niggles.”
“I’ve now been lucky enough to play footy this year and be among the main group. I’m just fortunate to play footy at whatever level, but to play a senior game was good.”
The occasion proved somewhat bittersweet, Werribee going down to the Blues by 29 points and now needing a lot to go its way over the final round of the home-and-away season for its finals ambitions to be realised.
Hodgson says it was a disappointing result given his side’s early chances, and he admits the step-up to the higher level of football is a challenge he will need to adapt to.
“We created good opportunities for ourselves and just didn’t capitalise, and those missed opportunities and the points came back to bite us in the end,” he says.
“I started off okay, but I drifted out of the game as the game went on.
“The intensity is much higher, and you’re playing on AFL-listed guys. I was playing on Rhys Palmer at one stage, and guys like that lead you to the footy and use their smarts, so you definitely notice that a lot more.”
Bance echoes his teammate’s view on the extra learning curve of senior footy.
“It was definitely a lot quicker than the Development League,” he says.
“You’ve got to have your wits about you. You can get found out otherwise.”
Despite needing other results to fall its way, Werribee remains every chance to be playing for its finals future against the Casey Demons on Saturday night, and Hodgson acknowledges he would love another senior opportunity to try to help get his side over the line.
“If I was to get selected, it would be awesome, as I think it’s a game we could definitely win to then potentially play finals,” he says.
But with plenty still to play out with both selection and results across the rest of the VFL competition, neither her nor Bance are getting ahead of themselves, both summarising the situation in the same way.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”
A Big Year of Debuts
Development of young players has long been a strong focus of Werribee, and the 2017 season has proved no different.
In lining up against the Northern Blues for their first senior games, Charlie Bance and Brydan Hodgson became the 12th and 13th players to make their VFL debuts for the Tigers this year.
- Max Augerinos – round 1 vs Geelong (9 games)
- Kyle Galloway – round 2 vs Footscray (2 games)
- Jade Cleeland – round 3 vs Essendon (8 games)
- Nick Buykx – round 4 vs Casey Demons (10 games)
- Tom Ellard – round 4 vs Casey Demons (7 games)
- Louis Pinnuck – round 5 vs Collingwood (11 games)
- Dom Brew – round 9 vs Northern Blues (8 games)
- Nick Richards – round 12 vs Coburg (2 games)
- Isaac Miller – round 14 vs Box Hill Hawks (2 games)
- Harry Boyd – round 16 vs Collingwood (3 games)
- Tristan Xerri – round 16 vs Collingwood (2 games)
- Charlie Bance – round 18 vs Northern Blues (1 game)
- Brydan Hodgson – round 18 vs Northern Blues (1 game)