Kye Decalse has become the latest Werribee player to graduate to game’s top level after he was selected by Melbourne with pick 15 in the 2021 NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
The 24 year-old had been on the radar of the Demon’s since earlier this year when he spent a week training with the club in the pre-season.
With two picks in Wednesday night’s draft the current league leaders used their first selection to snare Declase who was enjoying his best season in the VFL. The 195cm utility had per game averages of 22.2 disposals including 16 kicks, 7.4 marks and almost 5 inside 50s, while also adding six goals across Werribee’s first five matches.
Declase mainly appeared on the wing in 2021, but he and fellow draftee Daniel Turner are expected to provide instant depth to Melbourne’s backline stocks with Marty Hore and Aaron Nietschke inactive with season-ending ACL injuries.
Declase played 35 games and kicked 42 goals in three seasons at Avalon Airport Oval after joining the Big W in 2018, following two years and 11 matches with the Northern Blues.
Werribee coach Michael Barlow said he was thrilled for Declase who gets to realise his AFL dream.
“It’s probably been a few months in the making after his first stint down there,” Barlow said.
“He got invited down really late on back in March when they had a spot open up in the SSP (Supplementary Selection Period), he played a practice match, but it was all pretty rushed.
"He was probably disappointed initially to miss out, but he came back to Werribee and continued his good form from a couple of years ago, the AFL traits have shone through and now he gets his opportunity.
“He’s pretty excited and Werribee continues to jump off the map in terms of giving guys opportunities at the next level, which is something we’re really passionate about.”
Barlow said credit needs to go to former Werribee coach Mark ‘Choco’ Williams, now the Dees’ Head of Development, who helped Declase identify his AFL potential.
“Choco in the 2019 season really opened up Kye’s observations in terms of his own abilities and traits and where he could go with it,” Barlow said.
“He was a genuine winger for us and was ‘Mr Fixit’ essentially, if we were struggling in the front half Kye was the one we could rely on to go forward and take a mark. Similarly, if we needed someone to go into the backline and play behind the ball Kye was that guy, and I think that versatility has really helped with exposing him to the recruiters.
“For someone like Kye, who is fully invested and has done a lot of things right in a semi-professional environment to now be going into a full-time footy environment, it’s going to be pretty exciting to watch the next level he can go to.
The departure of Declase opens up an opportunity for another player and Barlow is confident of what the club has at its disposal in fill the void.
“Looking back at last night I think a lot of clubs would sit there a bit anxious about losing one or some of their better players, but I’m really adamant we’ve got a number of Kye Declase’s on our list at the club,” he said.
“As recently as our last game we saw Ariek Lual who has been starved of opportunities and probably would have played a fair bit of footy for us if we weren’t fully fit and healthy, there’s him as well as Tom Boyd, Ryan Pendlebury is also one who can play the wing/halfback role we’ve had with Kye.
"Another is Emmanuel Ajang who’s been in really good form at local level and fits that under 22 spot as well, and then there’s Keegan Gray, does he become a genuine winger for us now.
“Were pretty comfortable in the depth we’ve got to cover things.”