Jack Henderson had a tremendous start to his VFL football career, being named one of Werribee’s best in his debut against Geelong on Saturday.
Playing as the 23rd man, the former Deni Rams junior played an impressive shutdown role on former Geelong Falcons teammate Gryan Miers, in the Tigers’ heartbreaking four point loss at Torquay’s Spring Creek Reserve.
Facing a heavily favoured Geelong side boasting 14-AFL listed players, Werribee looked set to pull off an Easter miracle when they led by nine points late in the final term after trailing by as much as 25 points early in the third quarter.
But two quick goals in the dying moments saw the Cats snatch the lead back to retain the K rock Cup and cruelly deny the visitors victory in their first VFL match as a standalone outfit since 1999.
After Miers put on two early goals in the first term, Henderson kept the AFL listed player scoreless for the remainder of the game.
The 18 year-old collected 11 possessions, with nine kicks, two handballs and taking five marks, laying five tackles and having three rebound 50s.
Henderson was surprised at how quickly his side had turned their form around, having lost to the Cats by 67 points in a practice match two weeks ago.
‘‘It was very exciting to be playing in the season opener,’’ he said.
‘‘I can’t believe how much better we played compared to the practice match.
‘‘I played with Gryan in a grand final win last year, so it was a bit strange to be lining up against him.
‘‘He got those two quick goals but luckily I was able to get a hold of him in the end.
‘‘It’s disappointing we couldn’t get the result, especially after leading by nine points with less than five minutes left.
‘‘But hopefully I’ve done enough to keep my spot in the side and then we can look to bounce back in two weeks.’’
Werribee coach John Lamont was quite impressed with Henderson’s performance, indicating he will select the small defender for their round two clash in two weeks time.
‘‘Jack’s done really well in his first hit-out,’’ he said.
‘‘He defended well, tackled well and kicked the ball beautifully. He is probably too humble to admit it, but only one of Gryan’s goals was kicked against him.
‘‘We’ll most likely have Jack play the first four games under the 23rd man rule and if he continues to play well enough, he’ll possibly be picked in the best 22.
‘‘Very rarely have we brought an 18 year-old in that hasn’t earned their spot through playing as the 23rd man.
‘‘The standard of play was incredibly high and Jack’s decision making and speed was at the level it needed to be.
‘‘He didn’t look out of place and has given a good account of himself.
‘‘It’s a big credit to the Deni Rams who can feel proud that they shaped him for this at the start of his footy career.’’
Werribee will host Casey Demons at Avalon Airport Oval under the lights at 7pm on Saturday, April 14.