McNamara rides steep learning curve to VFL debut

VFL football seemed the logical next step for Ben McNamara.

In his first year of senior football, the former Geelong Falcon and Torquay junior had been fortunate enough – not to mention good enough – to play an important part in the premiership success of St Joseph’s in the Geelong Football League, then officially recognised as Victoria’s strongest community football competition.

With Werribee entering its first season as a standalone VFL club in 19 years and looking to fill its list, McNamara jumped at the opportunity to test himself at a higher level and was promptly snapped up by the newly independent club as one of its first new signings for season 2018.

But the jump to state-league football proved a big one, and with competition for spots in Werribee’s backline stiff, the 20-year-old defender found himself unable to break into the starting 23 across the first half of the year.

“He was on a steep learning curve coming into the program for the first time over the pre-season,” Werribee coach John Lamont recalls.

“It probably took him a while to pick up the speed of the whole thing and how VFL footy all worked.”

Slowly but surely, though, McNamara has adapted to the demands of life in the VFL system, ultimately earning a debut call-up alongside fellow first-gamer Fabian Brancatisano for Werribee’s home clash with Essendon on Saturday.

As well taking his defensive work with the Joeys on game days to another level, which has seen him perform big jobs on the likes of former Geelong and Carlton forward Billie Smedts (now with Leopold) and Geelong VFL-lister Aiden Grace (aligned with St Mary’s), he has also impressed on the training track at Avalon Airport Oval.

“His form with St Joseph’s has been really, really strong, and he’s been really consistent in our match-play simulation, which is something we look at pretty strongly,” says Lamont.

“An opportunity has now presented to give him a game late in the year, so we’re really confident he’ll give a good account of himself.”

Standing at 190cm and boasting both good mobility and strength in a contest, McNamara is well suited to the “third tall” role in Werribee’s defensive set-up, and Lamont believes his young charge will benefit enormously from the opportunity to learn from the more experienced members of his side’s backline come game day.

“He’s got the ability to play nice and tight from what we’ve seen but also the ability to come off his man and intercept mark,” says Lamont.

“It’s a great opportunity to play with the likes of Sam Collins and Michael Sodomaco and Nick Coughlan back there. It’ll be great for his development, so we’re really confident that he can do well.”

McNamara and the rest of the Werribee team take on Essendon at 2:10pm on Saturday at Avalon Airport Oval.

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