Werribee has given its stocks of local talent a significant boost with the signing of four former Western Jets.
Reigning Barry Round Medallist Connor Thar and 2018 teammates Jack Watkins and Hamish Murphy, all 18, have joined 2017 Jets co-captain Nick Stuhldreier, 19, in committing to Avalon Airport Oval for season 2019.
A true local as a product of Werribee Districts, Thar was considered unlucky to miss out at the 2018 AFL Draft after a stellar year in the former TAC Cup.
In addition to his best-and-fairest honours, the prolific ball-winner finished as runner-up in the Morrish Medal count, just two votes behind new Carlton recruit Liam Stocker, and was named as part of the midfield in the TAC Cup Team of the Year.
Watkins also impressed as part of the Jets engine room last year, the Melton South product finishing third in the best-and-fairest count and taking out the Most Consistent Award after being named in his side’s best 11 times.
Like Thar, Murphy originally hails from Werribee Districts, where he spent most of his time forward, but it has been as key defender with the Jets over the past two seasons that he has established himself as a player of the future.
Stuhldreier spent 2018 as a key member of Ballarat Football League side Bacchus Marsh, having graduated from the Jets program in 2017 with a third placing in the Barry Round Medal on his resume in addition to his leadership duties.
Werribee Football Operations Manager Stuart Balloch said being able to provide opportunities to promising young players from the Wyndham region and wider Western Melbourne area was a great story for the club.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to maintain a connection with our local region despite not being officially aligned with the Western Jets as part of the Talented Player Pathway,” Balloch said.
“As much as we have a great relationship with the Geelong Falcons that we have benefited from enormously, it’s always pleasing to have local players coming into our program who have seen what we do here and want to commit, and we’re hopeful of continuing to foster positive relationships with the under-18 boys in our region.”
WHAT THEY SAID
“I’m very excited to be on board. I’m a local and have lived in Werribee my whole life, so representing Werribee is something I’ve always aspired to.
“The transition from the TAC Cup to the VFL has been a challenge, but I’m enjoying the opportunity here. I’ve been really welcomed by the boys and am looking forward to the year ahead.”
“It’s good to sign on with a couple of mates in ‘Hammer’ and Connor, who I played with last year, and ‘Stuhly’, who I didn’t play with at the Jets but know from around town.
“I’m now just looking to improve myself and see if I can get a few games to test myself against the best in Victoria.”
“Working with ‘Choco’ [Senior Coach Mark Williams] has been terrific. He obviously knows what he’s doing, coming off winning an AFL premiership in 2004 with Port Adelaide, and he’s been really good in terms of our development, especially for the younger blokes.
“I’ve been really trying to make use of his knowledge of the game and take on everything he’s given me and put my best foot forward to give myself the best opportunity to play.”
“I got invited down to train, and I saw a good opportunity here, as there’s a good young list. I put my head down and worked hard and was really glad to get signed as reward for the effort I put in, so I’m very excited to be here and am looking forward to the year ahead.”