Werribee has secured the final piece of its 2017 leading group puzzle by re-signing Kurt Aylet for season 2018.
Aylett put pen to paper earlier this week to officially commit to a third season at Avalon Airport Oval, joining fellow 2017 leaders Matthew Hanson, Tom Gribble, Jake Sharp, and captain Michael Sodomaco in re-committing to the club for its first season as a standalone VFL outfit in 19 years.
“It’s a very exciting time for the club, and I’m rapt to be a part of it going into the first year as a standalone club,” the 25-year-old utility said.
“There’s plenty of work ahead of us, but I’m really looking forward to knuckling down and creating our own identity and a great culture that will hold us in good stead.
“We’ve got a great captain in old ‘Sodda’, and we’ve got all the boys behind him in ‘Sharpy’, ‘Gribb’, Matty Hanson, and me. I think we really accommodate each other a lot, and we’ve got some great up-and-coming guys who we really feel can take that next step and are capable of pushing us along.”
Originally from Leeton in southern New South Wales, Aylett joined Werribee in 2016 after three AFL games with Greater Western Sydney and Essendon and has shown remarkable resilience through a horror run with injury.
After arriving at the club under a fitness cloud, he made his debut against Geelong in round 14 of the 2016 season, only to find himself caught up in a severe collision incident early in the match that left him requiring a complete ankle reconstruction.
Despite the setback, he was elevated to the leading group for 2017 thanks to his strong communication skills and unwavering application to his rehabilitation process, and his long-awaited senior return for Werribee’s memorable round 15 victory over eventual premiers Port Melbourne proved to be arguably the club’s feel-good story of the year.
He went on to become an important part of the team’s defensive set-up in its final five games of the season, finishing as one of his side’s best players as a running half back in the round 18 clash with the Northern Blues.
Aylett said he was “absolutely rapt” to return for the final five games of 2017 and credited the Werribee staff and playing group as well as his external support network with helping him through the process.
“To come off a massive operation and get back, I was really proud,” he said.
“I’m really grateful to the conditioning staff who got me back, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, my partner, and all the boys as well.
“The rollercoaster in football is amazing, and it’s something I use now as motivation because I know how valuable it is to actually be back training and playing with the group and how hard it is to stay out there sometimes.
“It teaches you a lot about yourself, and it’s something I think is going to carry me a long way in the long run.”
While Werribee’s leading group is yet to be officially confirmed for 2018, senior coach John Lamont said it was “really positive” to have the 2017 group all re-committed on the back of Aylett’s signing.
“They’re building some really strong working relationships, so it’s great that they return,” said Lamont.
“There’s a lot said about leadership groups in footy clubs, but we’re trying to keep it as simple as we possibly can.
“These blokes have just got the brief of leading the playing group on the field, driving positive standards on the training track, and keeping them together.
“It’s a nice, simple focus, and they’ve made a really good start over the last 12 months, working closely with (club psychologist) Andy Demetriou, so I’m looking forward to that continual improvement.”
Lamont said Aylett had won a lot of admiration from the playing group through the way he conducted himself throughout his rehabilitation, and the senior coach said he was looking forward to his versatile young charge playing more of a midfield role throughout 2018.
“He had his tough times in his first year, but he’s earned a lot of respect through his resilience and perseverance,” said Lamont.
“He has a real enthusiasm and attention for detail, and he’s tough in the head. He’s a real role model, so we’re really looking forward to him driving the new era.
“We decided when he came back into the team with five games to go that we’d just ease him back in and play him off half back, but we ultimately see him as an on-baller.
“He hasn’t really played there yet because of the return-from-injury phase that he’s always been in for the two years, but we’re certainly looking to him to bolster our midfield group next year.
“He’s a top-level runner and a good decision maker, and he has good skills, so we really think he can add to our mix.”
Werribee players officially confirmed for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)