Tears have turned into cheers for one night at least for the Werribee Football Club.
After the utter devastation of a three-point semi-final loss to Essendon that brought some players to tears at Adcon Stadium on Sunday, Werribee needed a pick-me-up and found it in the form of the Victorian Football League’s night of nights on Monday night.
Ever consistent onballer Tom Gribble walked away with the league’s highest honour, the J.J. Liston Trophy.
Gribble polled a massive 25 votes in the best-and-fairest count – eight more than second placegetter, young Footscray player Rhylee West, who finished with 17.
Gribble was taken aback when he saw his vote tally rise with no rival in sight.
The 24-year-old’s 25 votes were the most polled in a Liston count since Port Melbourne’s Shane Valenti hit 25 in 2011.
“When I was sitting there at about eight o’clock this morning on the couch sinking a few beers after our loss yesterday with the boys, I didn’t think that was going to be happening tonight,” Gribble said with a chuckle.
“It’s a tremendous honour to see some of the blokes who have won.
“You reeled off Sam Mitchell there, Gibbo [Michael Gibbons] has gone on to awesome things, it’s pretty special.”
Gribble is the sixth Werribee player to take home the J.J. Liston Trophy.
Anthony Eames (1991), Paul Satterley (1995), Michael Frost (1998), James Podsiadly (2008) and Ben Ross (2012) were the other five Werribee players to stand on stage to receive the top honour.
Gribble felt like he took his game up another level this season under new coach Mark Williams.
Though it might have taken a while for Gribble to convince Williams of his place in the team.
“Six weeks out from round one, ‘Choco’ [Williams] flashed up the round one side and I wasn’t in it,” Gribble said.
“I wasn’t in great spirits.
“I don’t know if it was a ploy by him.
“Choco is obviously a very well regarded coach and the key thing is his development of players.
“I definitely felt like this year I’ve gone from being a good player to a really good player and I’ve developed certain aspects of my game under him.”
Gribble played 18 games for nine goals and accumulated four best-afields.
The ball magnet led the VFL in disposals and inside 50s.
While he was thrilled to be recognised as the best player in the league, Gribble was still hurting from Werribee’s devastating loss to Essendon that eliminated them from the finals.
Werribee had its chances to ice the game late, but kept the door ajar for Essendon youngster Tom Jok to steal victory for the Bombers in the dying minutes of a tense, low scoring final.
It only hurts for Werribee because there was such belief within the group that it could do damage at the back end of the finals.
Despite the setback, Gribble is confident that Werribee is ready to challenge for a VFL premiership in 2020.
“We’re on a good track,” Gribble said.
“We built through John Lamont and those years were really good and now Choco’s taken us to that next platform.
“I can’t wait to get into the finals action again next year.”
Earlier in the night, Werribee had Gribble (ruck rover), Nick Coughlan (centre half-back), Jake Riccardi (centre half-forward), Michael Barlow (interchange) and Jack Henderson (interchange) named in the VFL team of the year.