It seems there’s no separating Louis Pinnuck and Harry Boyd.
The two 19-year-olds journeyed south together to join Werribee for the 2017 season after graduating from the Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup program the previous year.
They ended up as housemates in suburban Ascot Vale and even wore adjacent numbers in their debut seasons, Boyd donning 57 and Pinnuck 58.
Now, the pair are set to continue on together at Avalon Airport Oval, having both signed on to remain with Werribee as it enters 2018 for its first season as a standalone VFL outfit in 19 years.
Strathmerton product Pinnuck proved to be one of Werribee’s biggest first-year success stories, making his debut against Collingwood in round five – incidentally, a match played at his old Bushrangers stomping ground of Wangaratta’s Norm Minns Oval – and going on to make 12 VFL appearances, kick seven goals, and twice finish among his side’s best players.
The third placegetter in the Bushrangers' 2016 best-and-fairest count said he believed the end of Werribee’s on-field alignment with North Melbourne and the $11.75 million redevelopment of its training and administration facilities could go a long way towards the club attracting fresh talent.
“I’m excited to be going standalone, but I think the new clubrooms are what I’m most excited about,” said Pinnuck.
“I think there is a bunch of boys probably more willing to play for the team now. It’s really exciting.”
Described by senior coach John Lamont as an “around the square” type capable of playing at half back, half forward, or on the wing, Pinnuck is ultimately hoping to lock down a role as a rebounding defender.
“Playing at half forward and kicking goals is nice, but I think I’d prefer to play on the half-back line, where I can read the play and intercept mark, which I think is one of my strengths,” he said.
“I think it has a lot to do with confidence, just going for my marks and backing myself, and I’ve also got to work on my strength to go with my speed as well.”
Boyd has also shown himself to be a versatile player, albeit in somewhat different roles, his 196cm frame lending itself well to key positions as either end of the ground as well as stints in the ruck.
After consistently strong performances in the AFL Victoria Development League, the Shepparton export was rewarded with a VFL debut in round 16 on the big stage of Etihad Stadium and grabbed his opportunity with both hands, holding his spot as a key defender for the final four matches of the season.
Boyd described his VFL experience as a “massive learning curve” but said he was ready to embrace the challenge of 2018 as he looked to step things up as part of a standalone team.
“I got to play on some good players, and I definitely think I can improve and believe I belong at that level,” he said.
“As a group, we’ve been talking about that extra responsibility we have now as Werribee players, which is exciting. It’s a massive challenge, no doubt, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.
“[For me], I think it’s a matter of becoming that mature-bodied key-position player, working on movement and craft in the backline, and getting used to playing with those back six players week in and week out.”
Lamont said he was excited at the thought of what both Pinnuck and Boyd could achieve in their second season now they were well and truly adjusted to life in the big city.
“This time last year, they were finishing school, working out uni and where they were going to live, so there were a lot of unknowns,” said Lamont.
“They’ve both played senior footy now and got a good taste of it, and they’ll soon be finished uni for the year and into their part-time work, so it should be really good for them.
“Harry will start the pre-season as a key defender, and then his plan B might be to pinch hit in the ruck for us depending on our particular set-up on game day.
“Louis will start as a defender as well, but we’ll give him a little bit more flexibility with his training to learn the wing role and learn the forward role as well.”
Lamont also paid tribute to the Murray Bushrangers program, which has seen a steady stream of talent come Werribee’s way in recent years.
“We’ve enjoyed a really strong relationship with the Bushrangers dating back to Nathan Laracy, who was still with us this year,” he said.
“The Ovens and Murray and the Goulburn Valley regions are really strong football regions, so we’re hopeful that relationship is going to continue.”
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)