Werribee has added another injection of youth to its list by signing former Geelong-listed utility Joel Bennett for 2018.
The 20-year-old Geelong Falcons product has made the move to Avalon Airport Oval to join Werribee for its first season as a standalone VFL side in 19 years after spending 2017 on the Cats' VFL development list.
He failed to get an opportunity at the VFL level but nonetheless established himself as a rising star in the senior ranks through his 16 games with Geelong Football League outfit Geelong West Giants.
Bennett said he was excited to be joining a standalone VFL club playing out of a new facility.
“I think the prospect of going standalone, especially for local footballers who want to get to that next level in their football, is a really good opportunity to develop,” Bennett said.
“It’s obviously a very good program here under [senior coach John Lamont]. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and you can just see from looking at the clubrooms that it’s going to be a pretty special place to come to training every week.”
Third behind 2017 Werribee recruit Max Augerinos in the Falcons’ 2016 best and fairest, Bennett is the latest in a long line of players from the TAC Cup program to join Werribee thanks to the affiliation between the two organisations, and he said he was looking forward to re-uniting with his old teammates.
“There are a few of the boys still down here and a couple of blokes who played in the few years before me, but I’m looking forward to playing with Maxy Augerinos again. That’ll be a good thing,” he said.
Werribee recruiting manager Ange Cristoforo said Bennett had been on the club radar for some time and was a player capable of performing a number of roles.
“We’ve been talking to him for the best part of 18 months, tracking him through his Falcons days, so we’re really pleased,” said Cristoforo.
“At TAC Cup level, he was a running half-back flanker and midfielder and pretty hard at it, and he’s a really nice size for those positions in the VFL.
“He’s got a bit of speed and a bit of hardness, and he’s very mature. That’s probably what we liked about him: his maturity not only as a player but as a person.”
Lamont described Bennett as “tenacious” and said he was looking forward to his young charge returning to a full training load following his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.
“He’s a hard, aggressive young player who tackles well and is team oriented,” said Lamont.
“He hurt a shoulder earlier in the year, which has necessitated a reconstruction, so he’s missed a bit of the pre-season, but we’re very much looking forward to him returning to the main group in the New Year.”
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)