Werribee Tigers have put the first piece of the jigsaw puzzle in place as they revert to being a stand-alone club in the Victorian Football League.
The Tigers will build their team around three-time Bruce Montgomery Trophy winner Matt Hanson, who has re-committed for next season.
Hanson had no intentions of leaving the Tiger cage, particularly with the club going it alone and returning to a redeveloped Avalon Airport Oval.
“It was a no-brainer, to be honest,” Hanson said.
“After the support Werribee has given me and the opportunity to play at the VFL level three years ago, I can’t speak highly enough of the club.
“I’m just trying to repay the favour.”
The Hanson-Werribee partnership has certainly been good for club and player.
Since he arrived from South Launceston in 2015, Hanson has played 53 hard-nosed games in the midfield and kicked 34 goals.
He made the VFL team of the year in his first season with the Tigers and was elevated to the leadership group a season later.
Hanson has played in two VFL state games, twice been a team-of-the-year member and is recognised as one of the premier onballers in the VFL, having finished a career-best third in this year’s JJ Liston Trophy count.
He is one of the best two-way midfielders, leading the competition in contested possessions and tackles.
Werribee coach John Lamont is thrilled to secure Hanson’s signature for next season, but would be even more stoked if he was given a shot at the AFL.
“It’s really pleasing,” Lamont said. “He’s had a massive impact since he arrived from Tasmania.
“The key thing for me has been that his game has continued to improve and that says a lot.
“He’s taken feedback, absorbed it and improved his game … he was particularly good this year when we were under pressure.
“Part of me doesn’t want him to play with us, because it means an AFL club has given him an opportunity, which I think he thoroughly deserves.”
Werribee is working on a big summer of signings in order to field a competitive stand-alone side in a tough competition.
The additional senior spots available should be enticing for players to re-commit and fresh faces to join.
“The returning players and the guys who have been here for two-plus years are really excited about the prospect of being our own club,” Lamont said.
“So the signing of a popular member and triple best-and-fairest winner can only add to the enthusiasm. We’ll start having meaningful dialogue with the players about contracts for next year and start filling up the spots, but it’s a great start.”