It’s official: Sam Collins will play with Werribee in 2018.
The former Fremantle key defender put pen to paper this week, confirming earlier speculation – and Collins’ own public revelation to the AFL Players Association – that he would make the move to Avalon Airport Oval to join Werribee for its first season as a standalone VFL club in 19 years.
The 23-year-old said he was thrilled to commit to the club and shore up his immediate playing future after the disappointment of his time at the Dockers being cut short.
“It’s been a long process for me from getting de-listed to finding a home, and training by yourself isn’t too enjoyable, so I’m really excited to be here and be a part of something special,” said Collins, who also spent time training with St Kilda ahead of this year’s AFL Draft.
Originally a product of the Donvale Football Club and Oakleigh Chargers TAC Cup program, Collins was taken by Fremantle at pick 55 in the 2015 national draft, playing 14 games in his two seasons with the club.
A mature-age recruit, he earned his opportunity with the Dockers through 38 games with the Box Hill Hawks from 2013 to 2015, his story a testament to the ability of the VFL to produce mature talent capable of breaking into the AFL landscape.
While Collins admitted there was some appeal in the romantic notion of a return to the Hawks, he said Werribee’s standalone status and coaching environment were too good to overlook.
“There’s a changing landscape in the VFL, and in the time I was there, the Development League was a pretty integral part of the competition, so to see that go really made my decision a lot harder,” he said.
“Obviously, I would have loved to go back to Box Hill, but Werribee is in a really unique position in that it’s going standalone for the first time, and John Lamont is a great coach.
“I’m really excited to play under John. It’s a really unique and exciting opportunity here. I think he’s really trying to build a strong culture and build a strong list, and I hope we can do something special.”
Having previously been part of the Hawks’ leadership group, Collins said he hoped to use his time at Werribee to further develop his leadership skills and guide the younger members of the playing group as he continues to press his case for another AFL opportunity.
“I still definitely have that desire to get back on an AFL list, and I think this is a great environment to do that,” he said.
“I’ve already had the experience of playing VFL football in an attempt to get that done. Having gone through that journey, I think I can really help other guys who are in a similar position to get onto a list.
“It’s a really good opportunity to improve my leadership and help other guys develop, so that’s what I’ll be looking to do in 2018.”
Werribee football operations manager Stuart Balloch said it was pleasing to have Collins commit to the club after extensive discussions.
“We identified Sam pretty early in the piece,” said Balloch.
“Having been de-listed by Fremantle, he was afforded an opportunity to train with St Kilda. We followed that through and maintained contact so he understood, should he not get an opportunity through the rookie draft, what playing within our program would look like.
“With a requirement to have a key defensive post held, we see someone who’s got some AFL experience and state-league experience with Box Hill as being a really, really good fit for our group.”
Lamont said he hoped the Werribee environment would be able to assist Collins in getting back into the AFL system and described the 194cm, 97kg defender as “a round peg in a round hole” given the club’s recruiting requirements.
“Sam is exactly what we need,” said Lamont.
“He’s experienced, he shows leadership, he has the size to play on the big blokes, and he plays with aggression and courage, so he’s going to be a really good role model for our younger defenders.
“He wants another opportunity at AFL level, and we’d love that for him. In the meantime, he’s team orientated, so he’s a great fit for us, and we’re really excited to have him as part of our playing group in this new era.”
Collins is the third of Werribee’s new recruits with experience in an AFL-club environment, with small forward Andrew Hooper having played seven games with the Western Bulldogs and defender Nick Coughlan having spent two years on St Kilda’s rookie list.
Werribee players officially announced for 2018
Michael Sodomaco (C)