Werribee captain Michael Sodomaco has officially committed to leading his side into its new standalone era by re-signing with the club for season 2018.
The 26-year-old put pen to paper on a contract extension this week but said the process was a mere formality given he had always intended to return to Avalon Airport Oval.
“I’ve been here now for seven years and am going into my eighth, so it’s just under a third of my life,” he said.
“It’s the only senior club I’ve played for. It’s my club, and it’s where I want to play.”
Despite being one of Werribee’s most experienced campaigners, Sodomaco said there was a feeling of a new beginning looking towards the 2018 season.
“It’s funny. It feels a little bit like going into my first year as captain,” he said.
“We’ve been an aligned footy club in the past, and it’s been an honour to captain that, but this is the first year where we’re our own club. We’ve got full control over our identity and destiny, so it’s very exciting.”
Sodomaco follows Matthew Hanson and Max Augerinos as the third Werribee player to be officially confirmed for 2018, but the club is well advanced in discussions with the rest of the playing group and is expected to announce a host of re-signings in the coming weeks.
“I’ll be shocked if anyone wanted to leave, to be honest,” Sodomaco said.
“I’m expecting everyone to want to be back. With every conversation I’ve had so far, that’s been the case, so I think we’ll have a strong core from last year and hopefully then get a few experienced recruits to top up.”
Sodomaco was also bullish about his side’s prospects in its first year as a standalone club in what he sees as a very open VFL competition.
“There are obviously a number of steps to get you there, but I don’t see why we can’t be successful next year,” he said.
“If you look at the premiers of the last four or five years, it’s hard to pick a standout team that you would have pencilled in to win the flag at the start of the year that ended up winning it, so I just think there’s a lot of opportunity.
“If you get things right and have a bit of luck, you can go well in the competition, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Werribee coach John Lamont said having his skipper officially back on board was crucial for the club as it looks to establish itself as a standalone outfit.
“We knew he was going to return, but it’s great to have the paperwork done, and we’re really looking forward to the contribution Michael is going to make over the next few years in this new era,” said Lamont.
“It’s just our footy club now, and we don’t have to work in with another partner, so there’s a change of mindset with how we go about it. To have Michael on board to support that and drive a bit of that is really, really important.”
Lamont praised his captain as a player capable of leading through both his words and his actions.
“He’s a great communicator, he builds strong working relationships with others, and he’s honest,” said Lamont.
“He’s just getting better and better as a captain with what he brings on and off the field, the training standards he sets, and his ability to galvanise the group.
“The other thing, though, is that he’s a damn good player. We really missed him when he was out injured, and already he’s booked in to catch up with [high-performance manager] Simon Anning with the view to making sure he plays 20 games for us next year.”
A product of the Lara Football Club and the Geelong Falcons TAC Cup program, Sodomaco has played 65 games and kicked 18 goals for Werribee since joining the club in 2011.
His natural leadership qualities saw him elevated into the leadership group in 2014 before being promoted to the captaincy in 2015.
The archetype of the hard-running rebounding defender, Sodomaco represented Victoria in the 2016 VFL State Team and was again selected for the squad this year before ultimately being sidelined with injury.
Despite playing only 11 of a possible 18 games this year due to injury, he nonetheless managed to poll 18 votes to finish third in Werribee’s best-and-fairest count.