YOUNG gun Darby Henderson will step up to the VFL this season after Williamstown announced it had signed the 18-year-old Echuca product.
It continues a strong relationship between the Seagulls and the Henderson family — Darby’s father Brett was a senior development coach at the club and Darby made his VFL Development debut there this season.
Henderson will nominate Echuca as his home club, as will Geelong’s Ben Reid. But it seems unlikely Reid will play many games in the GVL after his runner-up best and fairest season with the Cats.
Henderson, the Bendigo Pioneers’ best and fairest winner, said his chance to play with the side in 2017 had been the perfect way in to the next level.
‘‘When I played for the Williamstown development team towards the end of last season I thought it would be a great opportunity to impress them,’’ he said.
‘‘I knew I would have a foot in the door if I played some good footy and fortunately enough they invited me down to pre-season to train with a try-out squad mid-November.
‘‘Then I was lucky enough to sign a contract which was a great feeling as I was assured a place on the list early days.’’
Despite his family link to the club, Henderson said he had plenty to learn about Williamstown and the challenge of VFL football.
‘‘I still don’t know much at all. I spent a little bit of time around the place when I was younger but heaps has changed.
‘‘I can’t wait to get settled in and adapt to their culture and the way they do things,’’ he said.
‘‘I can’t wait for a fresh start and and a new challenge. I’ve always wanted to play the best footy I can and I will try my hardest to prove myself at VFL level because it’s such an exciting competition.
‘‘I’m not sure where I stand in terms of playing senior VFL footy but if I was able to have a solid pre-season and break into the team I would be stoked.’’
Henderson will move down to Williamstown early next week, where the club has organised a job for him and offered help settling in.
Echuca co-coach Simon Maddox said while he hadn’t had much to do with Henderson, he was thrilled to see local talent on VFL lists.
‘‘He was a fraction unlucky not to find himself drafted to an AFL list, but now if he wants to make it there, the VFL is as good a place as any,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s great he’s playing the best football he can and testing himself; that’s what we’re all about as a club.’’
Maddox said with no VFL reserves competition this season, the club would welcome Henderson back as much as it possibly could.
And with Reid, who Maddox agreed would be unlikely to feature often with the Murray Bombers.
‘‘The club is turning over an exciting new leaf and Reidy is back on board; he’s a former club best and fairest, an Echuca lad and he wants to be back on board,’’ he said.
‘‘The games where he is available we’d love to get him contributing.’’