By Lance Jenkinson
Werribee onballer Tom Gribble has “conflicted feelings” about the 2019 Victorian Football League season.
On a personal level, Gribble soared to great heights, taking out the competition’s JJ Liston Medal for best and fairest and claiming the club champion Bruce Montgomery Trophy last Wednesday night.
In a team sense, Gribble was left unfulfilled, believing his side’s best would have been good enough to give premiers Richmond a real shake on grand final day.
For that reason, Gribble will be left with a sour taste over summer, despite the incredible strides he has taken as a player and the outstanding season Werribee had outside of its premature finals exit.
“Individual accolades are nice, but it’s hard to dismiss the fact that we lost to Essendon in a semi-final by three points when we were probably the better team,” he said.
“Ultimately I’m still not satisfied and there’s a hollow feeling to it.”
Gribble is self-confessed obsessed about the VFL.
The 24-year-old watches as many games as he can and studies his opponents closely.
After Werribee’s narrow loss to Essendon, Gribble told himself that he would not watch the game back.
A week later, he was watching the game back and re-living a day he would rather forget.
“I love the VFL comp, I love what it brings,” he said.
“I get bagged out a little bit by the boys because I study it quite a bit.
“I told myself after the semi-final that I wouldn’t watch the replay of that game, but I watched the last quarter the following week.
“It didn’t sit nicely with me and I was pretty emotional watching it.
“It allows you to move on now and it definitely makes that fire burn a little bit harder.”
After a sensational season, Gribble is hellbent on building a sustainable reputation as one of the best players in the VFL.
Gribble entered this season as a dependable, hard working Werribee midfielder, but the word damaging had not been associated with him. In 2019, Gribble turned it up a notch, not only playing with consistency, but starting to hurt the opposition by making every possession count.
“I’ve added certain elements to my game,” he said. “Being more damaging with the ball, when to kick, when to handball and getting a better mix with that.
“Using the ball more effectively by foot.
“I’m starting to hit my prime now, so hopefully I can keep improving and it’s not just a flash-in-the-pan type of year.”
Gribble’s big season coincided with the arrival of new coach Mark Williams.
Williams immediately put Gribble on notice, revealing his round one team weeks out from the season with Gribble’s name left off.
It was a reminder to those not on the list that they have some work to do to get into Williams’ plans.
Gribble took note and worked hard on his deficiencies to make the round one team and what followed was his best season yet.
“I’ve taken massive steps under Choco and I can’t thank him enough,” Gribble said.
“Choco clearly outlined some areas that I needed to improve on, because we’re not all perfect, and I really worked hard on them.
“I think because he positively reinforces so much, if he’s seen improvements, he’ll let you know.
“It’s good to know that when you’re working on your game, those improvements are being noticed and the work you’re putting in is being rewarded.”
Gribble won the Werribee best-and-fairest with 67 votes, just two votes clear of onballer Dom Brew (65) with defender Nick Coughlan (61) six back.
It was a tight vote count across the board and it showed that Werribee was not reliant on a handful of individuals.
“The leaderboard does suggest we’re not a top end group and we don’t rely on any one or two players,” Gribble said.
“It certainly shows there’s a consistency and everyone is understanding of their roles. It has been a great year right across the group.”
Gribble believes Werribee is on the path to something big next season.
He looks at 2019 as a stepping stone on the path to the ultimate glory.
“The foundations are there,” he said.
“I think one year into the system with a new coach, maybe it was a bit premature to win a flag, but the second year you should really be starting to attack it and know what’s required and what the understanding is amongst the group and the coaches.”