Joel Bennett didn’t look the likeliest of early-season debutantes with Werribee.
Having spent 2017 on Geelong’s VFL list without getting an opportunity, the 21-year-old midfielder had been earmarked as a prime candidate for a 23rd player position with Werribee.
But he appeared to be facing an uphill battle for an early-season berth after undergoing shoulder surgery in the off-season and then injuring his hand in his first game back for local Geelong Football League club Geelong West Giants.
Nonetheless, Bennett will now line up as part of the Werribee side that takes on Collingwood at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, and senior coach John Lamont says he isn’t at all surprised the Corio product and former Geelong Faclon has vaulted his way into the side given his determination and tenacity.
“At the end of last year, he looked at going Aspley in the NEAFL and moving to Brisbane because he’s a young man desperate to play the best footy he can,” Lamont said.
“He wants to play state-league level football, so that was on the drawing board for him.
“He decided to come our way fully understanding that his way into the team would be as 23rd player, and he got through a big rehab recovery period and has put in a lot of work to do that.”
Bennett ultimately made a much quicker return to the GFL than anticipated following his hand injury and didn’t take long to press his case for a Werribee call-up, his strong form culminating in a best-on-ground performance for the Giants in last Saturday’s victory over St Albans.
Lamont said the combination of positive feedback from the Giants and his own coaching staff’s assessment of Bennett’s local performances convinced him his young charge was ready for the step-up to VFL.
“Matt Kershaw, our midfield coach, saw him play and was really impressed with his attack on the footy, his pressure level, and his ball use, so that was good that one of our assistant coaches got to see him play,” said Lamont.
“Greg Mellor at Geelong West has also commented on his competitiveness, his composure with the footy, and his tackling, so we’re confident that he’ll do well.”
Bennett and the rest of the Werribee side kick off against Collingwood at 5pm on Saturday.