St Joseph’s ruckman Oli Northam will get the chance to put his undoubted talent on display at VFL level in 2024 after signing with reigning grand finalist Werribee.
After representing Vic Country in his top age year with the Geelong Falcons, the 197cm 19-year-old was overlooked in the 2022 period.
Despite that disappointment, Northam was a standout in Joeys’ impressive start to the season, which resulted in eight wins in the opening nine rounds.
However, after Northam suffered a broken arm in the loss to Colac in Round 10, St Joseph’s faded to win just three more games for the season and missed the finals for the first time in a decade.
“He’s a little bit raw from my perspective,” newly-appointed Werribee football boss Ash Collins said.
“But, you look at the talent he’s got, and his body is starting to become bigger, (and) his tank is growing, his upside is endless.
“And he’s a real competitive beast, which is what I like about him.
“We’re really keen to see what we can do.”
The Tigers, who finished runner-up to an AFL-stacked Gold Coast team in this year’s grand final, have added Northam to a big-man group with a solid Geelong flavour.
Kobe Annand (North Shore/Ocean Grove) played 19 of a possible 21 games, with Sam Conway (St Mary’s) missing the season through injury.
Lara product Darcy Bennett has returned for a second stint at Avalon Airport Oval. Unfortunately for the GFNL club, he won’t have the Cats as his interchange club.
“Our ruck stocks are well-and-truly built up from that end of the world,” Collins said.
“I’m looking forward to match sim(ulation) when Kobe and Oli start running into each other because I think that will be an interesting watch.”
Bennett played eight VFL matches in 2019 and garnered some AFL interest on the back of some solid performances.
With Covid wiping out the 2020 VFL season and the 2021 season also impacted, Bennett missed the chance to further press his claims for a crack at the highest level.
“His pre-season’s been too good to ignore from our view,” Collins said.
“He’s put his hand up, and we’ve just had to put him on the list with what he’s done so far.
“I think we’ve got four genuine first ruck possibilities that could come in for Round 1.
“It’s exciting for us to be in that position and the four boys to have that opportunity as well.”
Werribee has strengthened its Grovedale link by signing former Geelong youngster Cooper Whyte.
And two-time GFNL Team of the Year member Mitch Chafer is looking to switch allegiances from Geelong to the Tigers after seven games in the Hoops in the past two seasons.
Chafer kicked a career-high 42 goals for Grovedale to take his career tally past 100 majors.
“He’s in a group of nine training with us at the moment for our remaining few spots on our list,” Collins said.
“They’ll train up until at least Christmas, and then we’ll assess them all there and make a decision.
“Mitch has done everything he needs to and can possibly do to put his hand up.
“He’s been pretty impressive so far.”