Werribee has retained another vital cog in its midfield machine by securing the services of Tom Gribble for season 2018.
Gribble, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, this week put pen to paper on a contract extension that will see him return to Avalon Airport Oval for a fifth season and Werribee’s first as a standalone VFL side in 19 years.
The Deakin University commerce student said his decision to recommit was a straightforward one and that he “would have signed earlier” if not for the need to focus on his end-of-year exams.
“I’ve grown to love the people around the club, and I’ve formed strong bonds with all the players,” Gribble said.
“When you’re spending four days a week with them and loving every one of them, it makes the decision to go around again very easy.”
Recruited ahead of the 2014 season after four games with Geelong’s VFL side, Gribble has added a further 51 games to his VFL tally and kicked 24 goals in his four seasons with Werribee.
Despite a number of setbacks in that time – including missing the entire 2015 season with injury and battling through back, ankle, and knee complaints this year – he has become an integral part of his side’s engine room through his combination of inside grunt work and hard-running outside play.
He was elevated to the leadership group this year and despite his ongoing niggles finished the season alongside fellow midfielder and three-time best-and-fairest winner Matthew Hanson – another who recently re-committed for 2018 – as one of only two Werribee-listed players to run out for all 18 VFL games.
His 36-disposal, two-goal performance against Footscray in round 10 this year perhaps best exemplified his prolific ball-winning ability and knack for pushing forward to hit the scoreboard, but Gribble believes he still has plenty of development in him.
“I’ve got to improve my efficiency and make better decisions,” he said.
“I’ve had a chat with [senior coach John Lamont], and there are a couple of things I need to work on that should be really easy to fix.
“If I can improve on them and get the body right, hopefully that will improve my game.”
With he and Hanson the only constant presences in the middle this year, Gribble said he was also looking forward to Werribee developing a more stable midfield group as an unaligned club next season.
“Matty and I formed a pretty good bond over the year and started to really gel and work well together,” he said.
“Then we had Dom Brew come into the mix, and he really complemented our game quite well and brought a physical presence to the field.
“It’s just going to be good knowing the blokes you’re training with three nights a week will be the ones out there on game day. That personal connection should really translate on the footy field.”
Werribee senior coach John Lamont said having Gribble re-sign was a “really positive” step for the club given his versatility as a player and strong game sense.
“Tom has developed the ability to play on the inside and outside and also go forward,” said Lamont.
“We want to be a team that’s flexible, and Tom brings that. He’s heavily committed to his footy, he reads the game well, and he has learned how to win the ball.”
Lamont also backed Gribble to rise to another level in 2018 as both a player and a leader, saying he would be assisted in that area through the club having re-positioned itself as a standalone outfit.
“Tom’s best footy is still in front of him. I’m expecting him to really grow and mature as a player,” Lamont said.
“We’ve got the environment we’re after now, so he’ll be a guy who can really drive some standards around training and how we want to play and have some ownership of that midfield group.”
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)