The AFL door remains slightly ajar for Williamstown midfielder Michael Gibbons.
There have been howls of discontent from players, coaches and supporters in the Victorian Football League after Gibbons was once again overlooked at the AFL’s national and rookie drafts, despite him being the VFL’s best-and-fairest player.
There are no promises for the dual JJ Liston Trophy winner, but now Gibbons at least has hope after Carlton invited him to train with its team, along with former Dandenong Stingrays youngster Matthew Cottrell.
The pair will vie for vacant spots on Carlton’s 2019 playing list.
Gibbons can train with Carlton until the playing lists are finalised. The Blues will have to lodge their final squad by March 15.
Gibbons was the king of the coal face in the VFL last season, averaging seven clearances a game. The 23-year-old averaged 28.6 disposals and 12 contested possessions.
If Gibbons impresses and is signed by Carlton, he would become the fourth Williamstown player to be taken by an AFL club this year following the drafting of Ben Cavarra to the Western Bulldogs and Lachie Schultz and Brett Bewley to Fremantle.
Should Gibbons not land on Carlton’s list, he will head back to Williamstown for the 2019 season.
Only hours before the news of the Carlton training invitation broke, Williamstown confirmed its star asset had re-signed.
While Gibbons will be striving towards a spot on Carlton’s list, he will not put the cart before the horse and is excited about returning to Williamstown should an AFL spot not eventuate.
“I love this club,” he said. “We are all striving for team success and hopefully we can build on what we did this year and go one step further.”
In other signing news, Williamstown has brought in North Heidelberg trio Liam Hunt, Jesse Tardio and Jhye Baddeley-Kelly.
Hunt, a former Northern Knights and Coburg inside midfielder, won the best-and-fairest at North Heidelberg last season.
Tardio, also a midfielder, spent two seasons on the Northern Blues’ list after graduating from the Northern Knights. Baddeley-Kelly is a half-back who has risen up through community football. Williamstown general manager of football Stephen Soulsby was thrilled with the triple swoop.
“Both Liam and Jesse wanted to return to VFL footy and it is great to have them come on board,” Soulsby said. “They will also add valuable support to Jhye in his first opportunity at VFL level.”