Werribee has secured the ongoing services of another two of its more experienced campaigners, with Jake Sharp and Matthew Munro both re-committing to the club for season 2018.
Sharp and Munro, both 22, have put pen to paper on contract extensions that will see them return to Avalon Airport Oval for a fifth and fourth season respectively and for Werribee’s first as a standalone VFL outfit in 19 years.
The pair, who played together with the Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup program and are currently housemates, both enjoyed breakthrough seasons in 2017.
Myrtleford product Sharp has been limited to just 27 VFL games in four seasons following a horror run of injuries that included a knee reconstruction in 2015 and a broken leg in 2016, but he took a big step forward this year in making 12 senior appearances despite a limited pre-season and a rib injury sustained midway through the season.
A member of Werribee’s leading group since 2016 thanks to his strong off-field qualities, the utility said he was looking forward to helping lead the club as a standalone side with the benefit of a full pre-season under his belt.
“It was just really good to get through the year without any major injuries coming off two knees in two years and the amount of time spent on the sidelines,” he said.
“I was rapt to play as many senior games as I did, and I’m extremely excited to get a pre-season in where I’m fully fit and can build on the year that I’ve had on the park.
“As a leading group, we’re very excited to lead a sole bunch of Werribee blokes to what we hope is a really successful year. We’ve been looking heavily at our areas for improvement, and we want to keep driving the standards we’ve set and set new standards to really improve the group and hold us in good stead for what’s going to be a big year.”
Munro emerged as a strong candidate for Werribee’s most improved player of 2017, playing 17 of the club’s 18 games for the same number of goals to take his career tallies to 36 and 28 respectively and finish fourth in the club's best and fairest.
As a hard-running, speedy small forward, the 2014 Albury premiership player showed an ability to impact the scoreboard both through his scoring assists and off his own boot, the latter best exemplified in his three-goal, best-on-ground performance against Footscray in round 10.
It followed a 2016 season that saw him manage just three VFL games after struggling to break into the senior side in what was Werribee’s first year as a fully aligned club.
Munro said he had benefitted greatly from a frank discussion with senior coach John Lamont and was looking forward to continuing to step up his output in 2018.
“At the end of the 2016 season, I had a good chat with John about some of the areas I needed to improve on to play some more consistent footy at the highest level,” Munro said.
“It was pretty honest, and it helped me work on what I needed to improve on. I went away in the off-season and worked on those things and put them into practice this year, and I was lucky enough to play most of the season.
“Now, it’s probably just a matter of trying to take it to the next level and become more of a leader inside the footy club and just play a bigger role.”
Lamont said the retention of experienced players such as Sharp and Munro was crucial for Werribee as it looks to rebuild itself as a standalone entity.
“It’s really positive from that perspective, and we’re really hopeful that our retention, with the change in direction of our club, will produce more players that are staying on for four and five years,” he said.
“Jake has shown terrific resilience and been a valuable contributor as part of our leading group. Now he’s injury free, I’m really hopeful we’ll get a really positive pre-season out of him and that his know-how and bit of experience will really help the group come along.
“Matt had an outstanding pre-season last year, got himself really, really fit, and got the rewards because he was able to finish off his game better.
“He’s got speed, and because of his base, he was able to not only display it with the ball but also to bring his pressure speed. It was a great effort to turn it around, so we’re rapt that he’s returning.”
Lamont said Munro would likely continue to play predominantly as a small forward in season 2018, and he suggested Sharp may also have more of an opportunity to push forward after previously playing mainly on the wing and in defence.
“He hasn’t got the traditional leg speed that you think of for a winger, but he knows the structures and communicates and helps set up other blokes, so he’s an important guy to have around the ball for us,” Lamont said of Sharp.
“For the future, while he can play in defence, he’s got the nous and understanding of the game that he might be able to have an impact forward for us at times as well.”
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)