Nathan Laracy has seen a fair bit in his time at Werribee, but he never imagined he’d see anything quite as impressive as his club’s new home.
For the boy from Barnawartha in northeast Victoria, even the considerably humbler former facilities at Chirnside Park were an impressive sight when he first headed south for the big smoke to take up the challenge of VFL football more than eight years ago.
Now, standing in the incredible new $11.75 million training and administration facility at Avalon Airport Oval, the man who has gone on to become Werribee’s longest-serving current player can’t quite believe how far his club has come.
“I never really envisioned it, to be honest,” said Laracy.
“I came down from a small country town, and there wasn’t too much there, so I thought we were fortunate enough with the facilities we had and that we did pretty well with what we had.
“These facilities now are just amazing. All the board and people like [CEO] Mark Penaluna and [football operations manager] Stu Balloch have done very well to get this up off the ground.”
Of course, any project of this size and scope comes at a cost; for Laracy and the rest of the Werribee team, that meant more than just the physical price tag.
With the redevelopment works having commenced in late 2016, the club was consigned to a nomadic existence for the 2017 season, operating out of shipping containers on training nights and unable to host any home games throughout what came to be known as the year of the “Travelling Tigers”.
Laracy, who has seen his fair share of ups and downs over the last eight years, acknowledges it was one of the more difficult experiences in his time at the club.
But the veteran defender says the payoff has been more than worth it and that the promise of the finished product was a big factor in his decision to continue to push himself at the VFL level despite a tough run of injuries in recent times.
“As tough as the last 18 months have been, the whole experience has just brought us closer together,” he said.
“We knew what the end result was going to be, and we’re a lot better for it, and we’ve now got these amazing facilities that we can enjoy together.”
While Werribee will run out for its long-awaited homecoming game when it takes on the Casey Demons under lights on Saturday night, Laracy will need to wait a little longer for the chance to play in front of a home crowd again while he continues on the comeback trail from knee surgery.
He is, however, looking forward to the chance to join what is expected to be a bumper crowd to watch the contest unfold from the stunning new function space and grandstand, facilities he believes will allow Werribee to set the VFL benchmark for match-day experiences.
“I’ll feature upstairs come Saturday, and it’s just going to be amazing, not just for me but for the community as well,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get a lot more down to games now. The view up there is pretty good, so I’m looking forward to getting up there on Saturday night to see how the boys go.”
Werribee kicks off against the Casey Demons on Saturday at 7pm.