Watching Joe Maishman in action for Werribee against Frankston two weeks ago, it seemed hard to believe he had not been guaranteed a place in his team’s line-up just over 12 months earlier.
The 22-year old has produced a number of eye-catching efforts this year, but his game against the Dolphins – which yielded 31 disposals, four goals, and nine tackles – was a near-complete midfield performance.
“It was good to take that step forward,” Maishman says of the match.
“Obviously, North Melbourne disappeared this year, and that freed up a few more spots, so it’s been good to get a bit more of an opportunity to come in and play my role and lock down that position in the team.”
Having now established himself as a staple of Werribee’s midfield setup, Maishman will notch his 50th VFL game when he runs out against Collingwood on Sunday.
While he was ultimately able to cement his spot in the VFL ranks over the second half of 2017 in spite of the North Melbourne alignment, Werribee’s move to go standalone this season has allowed him to make the move from pacey wingman to genuine on-baller.
As highlighted in his effort against the Dolphins, it’s a move he has handled with aplomb and which has seen him develop the defensive and contested ball-winning elements of his game to complement his blistering outside run and ability to hit the scoreboard.
Maishman is relishing the role and credits the familiarity created by the new standalone environment with helping him make the transition smoothly.
“I’m still working on developing all the strings to my bow, but it’s good that I can bring a little bit of energy around the ball on the inside and provide a bit more pressure and speed there, so I’m enjoying playing my role in there,” he says.
“We’ve got a really good midfield group, and I think everyone is loving having that one-club culture. There’s a really good mix in there, and we all just work in with each other.”
Among that midfield cohort is journeyman Ben Moloney, who notches up a milestone of his own with his 100th VFL game against his old club on Sunday. With key defender Sam Collins also fronting up for his 50th VFL game, it means Maishman will be sharing a crowded stage.
But far from seeing it as a case of stealing his limelight, Maishman is looking forward to the opportunity to share the occasion with his fellow milestone men in a game he hopes will see his side turn the tables on the Pies.
“They’re two ripping fellas, and they’ll both be loving the weekend and the game, that’s for sure,” he says of Moloney and Collins.
“It’ll be good fun to go out with them and hit our milestones. We’re definitely aiming to win and think we can. As long as we bring our right attitude and play the way we want to play and play some good footy, we’ll be every chance to walk away with a win.”
Maishman and the rest of the Werribee side kick off against Collingwood at Victoria Park at 11:30am on Sunday.