The bearded one is back at Watton Street.
Nathan Laracy – Werribee’s longest-serving player and the man with undoubtedly the club’s most extravagant beard – is preparing for a ninth season with the Victorian Football League club.
Laracy will continue serving as a leader at the Tigers, his experience being needed more than ever as the club returns to stand-alone status after breaking away from alignment with North Melbourne.
The veteran defender is thrilled with the Tigers’ decision to return to stand-alone status for the first time in his tenure with the club.
“I’ve always looked forward to this day coming,” Laracy said. “Having our own side is what I’ve been looking forward to for the last nine years – just having our own team and being able to drive our own standards.
“You really know where you’re at in this sort of group – the environment is just fantastic.”
The 28-year-old has been restricted to 32 senior VFL games due to injuries and a logjam of AFL stars returning to VFL level, but that could all be about to change.
He is proven at VFL level, having taken out the Tigers’ player of the finals award in 2014.
As captain of the development league team, Laracy was named best-and-fairest.
A troublesome knee has been a constant hindrance, but he still managed to post 100 club games when his development league games are factored in.
Recent surgery on his posterior cruciate ligament has Laracy hopeful of an injury-free 2018.
“I had [my knee] done about three months ago now and it’s getting there,” he said.
“It has its days where it pulls up sore, but I’m on track to run in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, it pulls up well and we can really try to push for round one.”
Werribee football operations manager Stuart Balloch has nothing but praise for Laracy’s dedication to the Werribee cause.
Laracy could have walked away from the club citing limited senior opportunities, but he continued to put his best foot forward, producing high-standard football no matter what level he was playing.
“It’s very rare that you have someone who will commit themselves to a program and continue while maybe not getting some level of opportunity,” Balloch said.
“That shows a lot of character and determination.
“Nathan has been dealt a pretty harsh hand with injury recently. Prior to that, he was probably our No.1 lockdown defender.
“When he’s at full strength, he’s definitely in our best 22.”