Werribee has taken its first step towards building its forward firepower as a standalone side by re-signing Josh Corbett and Brad Xavier for season 2018.
The pair, both 21, have committed to a third year at Avalon Airport Oval and what will be Werribee’s first as a non-aligned club in 19 years on the back of 2017 campaigns that saw both take big strides towards firmly establishing themselves among their side’s starting lineup.
Corbett entered the year with just two senior games and three goals from his debut season and battling to shake a bout of glandular fever and an ankle complaint before going on to have a big impact over the second half of the year.
After working his way back into the VFL side for the round 11 clash with Sandringham, he played the remaining nine matches and kicked 13 goals, which included a match-winning effort of four in the second half against Coburg in round 12.
The North Warrnambool product said he was pleased to string together as many consecutive games as he did and that he was looking forward to Werribee moving into its redeveloped facilities after its year on the road.
“I had a few injuries and illness, so it was really good for my confidence just to play a lot of games in a row,” said Corbett.
“While we didn’t get any team success for the year, that was my little success for the year.
“It was an enjoyable year as the ‘Travelling Tigers’, but it was pretty tough to find facilities and training venues, so we’re really excited about 2018 now we can focus more on the footy.
“There are some very talented names already signed on for next year, so I’m very honoured that I’ll get to play alongside them again.”
At 190cm, Corbett takes a strong contested mark for his size, but it is his ability to accelerate away from his opponent and mark on the lead at full stretch that has become the defining feature of his game.
“I’m a bit undersized for the position I play, so my running has been a big part of that,” he said.
“I’ve worked on that a fair bit with the forward-line coaches, just on marking contests and on being able to push away from your opponent and run to the right areas.”
In contrast, former junior Keilor star Xavier has been earmarked as a genuine key position prospect up forward thanks to his 195cm frame and clean hands, though he has also shown an ability to play down back and rotate through the ruck.
A broken hand saw him sidelined for the first half of 2017, but some impressive performances on his return to the AFL Victoria Development League saw him rewarded with another three VFL opportunities to go with his two matches as 23rd man from his debut 2016 season.
“For me,  is a bit of a redemption year,” Xavier said.
“I felt like I had a really good pre-season [this year] and then had the injury in the first game of the year, which kept me out for 10 weeks.
“I’ve gone through two years of getting a taste of what the training and playing environment is like, so I feel like I’m ready to take that next step.”
Of Indian heritage, Xavier has taken on a role with AFL Victoria as a VFL Multicultural Ambassador, and he is seen as a player with plenty of room for further development given his non-traditional background and pathway into the VFL system.
“I never played interleague through my juniors and then had just one pre-season at the Western Jets thanks to the Majak Daw Squad, which helped me out a lot,” he said.
“Being in a high-end training environment with a lot of talented kids who didn’t have the traditional pathway just makes you want to push to get to that next level. It’s a massive credit to all the multicultural development programs.”
Werribee senior coach John Lamont said he was excited to see how both Corbett and Xavier progressed throughout 2018 with the benefit of a clear run with injury and a clean bill of health.
“Brad missed a chunk of games and Josh missed a chunk of the pre-season, so they just need a bit of luck to get that consistency and then jump into some games,” said Lamont.
“[Josh’s] ability to attack the footy and hit the ball hard in the forward line is really positive, so I’m really looking forward to a big pre-season from him.
“[Brad] is still maturing with his football, but he’s got a really good pair of hands and can kick the ball pretty well.
“It’s an important pre-season period for Brad, but we’re really looking forward to it. He’s got some really exciting attributes.”
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)