The recruitment of key defender Sam Collins was considered a VFL coup for Werribee.
Collins, who played 14 games with Fremantle in the AFL and trained with St Kilda in the hope of being re-drafted, was surprisingly over-looked for a second chance in the big league, sparking frenzied interest from VFL pundits about where he would eventually land.
The 23-year-old opted to join Werribee because of its stand-alone status and immediately showed his value to the team’s backline in the four-point opening round defeat to Geelong Cats at Torquay over Easter.
Collins collected a massive 27 disposals, 14 marks and three tackles to walk away with the Damian Drum Medal for best-on-ground despite being on the losing side.
Not only did he show immense leadership on the field, but also off it when he praised the whole defence for his flying start to the season.
“I said after the game that I got a lot of the ball and I was the one who got noticed,” Collins said. “But I can’t under-rate the stuff that goes on behind the scenes from guys like Harry Boyd and Nick Coughlan, holding their man out so I can roll off and take the mark.”
Collins has been encouraged by what he has seen from the Werribee backline so far.
“We’re a completely new back six and it’s a new system,” Collins said. “The last six weeks we’ve shown it’s able to work effectively when we get it right.
“There’s always going to be a few things to change and alter, but as a back six, we’re playing a really good style of defence. We’re attacking when we’ve got the ball and we’re really trying to put the forwards under pressure when we’re coming out … obviously we want to be hard to play against and I think we are with the system we’ve got at the moment.”
Despite the loss and lamenting the slow start, Collins reckons Werribee can take plenty of positives out of its season opener.
After a rough opening quarter that had Werribee trailing by 23 points at the first change, the team showed tremendous fighting spirit to come back and almost snatch victory.
“To show a bit of resolve and to come back and play some real hard-fought footy was exciting,” Collins said.
“Going forward, that’s going to be the attitude of the whole playing group – that we’re never out of it.”
Werribee will turn its attention to the day its supporters have long been waiting for.
The boys in black and gold will take to Avalon Airport Oval for the first time since its redevelopment when it welcomes Casey Demons on Saturday night at 7pm.
“I was fortunate enough to see Freo’s new facility when I was there and I think Werribee’s is going to be just as good,” Collins said. “They’ve put a lot of time into it and made sure we’ve got all the resources, so to play our first home game at Avalon Airport Oval is going to be pretty special.”
The new facility was one reason why Collins opted to join Werribee, the other was its stand-alone status.
Having played for AFL-aligned state league clubs Box Hill Hawks in the VFL and Peel Thunder in the WAFL, he wanted to get back to a more positive team environment and use his time at Werribee as a springboard back to the AFL.
“There’s no hidden agendas,” Collins said. “We’ve got the one game plan and the one goal, which is obviously to win a premiership.”