Jack Henderson’s dream of playing in the AFL has taken a step in the right direction, officially making the final 45-man primary squad at VFL club Werribee Tigers.
The former Deni Rams junior was a member of the Geelong Falcons’ 2017 TAC Cup premiership side but missed out on being drafted by an AFL club.
The 18 year-old then joined the Werribee Tigers for pre-season training last year, after the club reached out to him. Henderson said it was a relief knowing he had made the squad.
‘‘I’ve been training hard since pre-season started so it’s quite rewarding,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s one thing just getting on the list but now I have to keep working hard to earn a spot in the side.’’
Henderson will most likely play for the Tigers this year through the VFL’s 23rd man rule.
The rule allows non-AFL affiliated clubs to have one player who was a part of the previous year’s TAC Cup season play in addition to the regular 22 players.
Henderson has had a taste of VFL action, lining up for Werribee in practice matches against Williamstown, Geelong and Essendon.
The Tigers downed Williamstown by 15 points, lost to Geelong by 67 points, and went down to Essendon by 36 points on Saturday.
In all games Henderson lined up in unfamiliar territory, playing as a forward.
‘‘I’ve never really played in the forward line other than a bit of pinch hitting in school footy,’’ he said.
‘‘John Lamont (Werribee coach) said it would help with the defensive side of my game to understand a forward’s running patterns. It’s been an unbelievable experience playing these three practice matches.
‘‘The ball didn’t come forward for us too often in the game against Geelong but we were up against about 14 AFL listed players, and there were about 10 AFL listed players in the game against the Bombers.
‘‘It was hard to gauge my performance against Essendon because I only played in the second half and in some spots of the field we were playing in ankle deep water.
‘‘It was a great experience to play against AFL players; they’re so much stronger and it was a good opportunity to see first hand what’s required at that level.’’
Werribee play Geelong at Torquay Football Oval in the season opener on Saturday. The Werribee coach said Henderson would definitely be in the mix for round one selection.
‘‘There’s a lot of positive signs (from Jack). He’s asking the right questions, pushing himself to get better and has handled the pre-season quite well.
‘‘He reads the game well, has a good kick and competes well, ticking a few boxes that will give him an edge.
‘‘Anyone Jack’s age will go through a real adjustment period to the nuances of VFL footy. He’ll have to learn the style of play and adjust to the speed of play, as well as compete against guys that are full time AFL players.
‘‘It’s a huge jump up from local footy so it will depend on how he improves throughout as to whether he can earn a regular spot in the side.’’