Williamstown is seeing the fruits of its focus on player development.
Two of its stars were selected at Friday’s rookie draft, with Andrew Gallucci landing at Carlton with pick 19 and Adam Marcon joining Richmond with pick 47.
It capped a fairytale season for the Seagulls, who claimed their first VFL premiership since 2003.
The Seagulls are the success story of recent AFL drafts, with more players taken from their list than any other VFL club in the past four years.
Football manager Chris Dixon was confident Gallucci and Marcon would land on an AFL list. He had often talked up their talents over the past year but could never be sure where the recruiters’ minds would be come November.
“It’s a great way to finish off the 2015 season, getting two guys over the line,” he told Star Weekly. “It’s always the unknown at this time of the year and even I was sort of nervous.
“When you see the names pop up on the screen, you know they are guys who have just realised their dreams, so we’re rapt for them.”
Williamstown ticked off both goals it set out to achieve at the start of the season.
The Seagulls desperately wanted to break a 12-year premiership drought and did so with victory over Box Hill Hawks in the grand final in September.
As a stand-alone club, Williamstown needs a different selling point to AFL-aligned teams and the promise to players is that it will do its utmost to help them achieve their dream of playing in the AFL.
Of course, the individual has to have the talent and work ethic to be drafted, but the Seagulls will provide an environment where they can succeed.
“Since 2012, we’ve had more players taken into the AFL system than any other VFL club, something we take great pride in,” Dixon said.
“We obviously had a great deal of team success this year, but we’re all about individual development. We want to win premierships and we want to get guys drafted.”
No matter how good your program, there will always be hard-luck stories and the Seagulls had more than usual this season.
Sam Dunell had a stellar first season with the Seagulls but, at 25, is a player clubs would only likely consider on a needs basis and no club called his number. So he will return to the Seagulls and be in discussions again next year.
Michael Gibbons won the Norm Goss Medal for best on ground in the grand final but was overlooked, while Willie Wheeler continues to put his name forward.
A name who could be in the mix a year from now is key defender Tim Currie.
“He was really close to being picked up,” Dixon said. “If he has another good 12 months, there’s no doubt he’ll be on the radar.”
What Gallucci, Marcon and other Seagulls taken in recent seasons have shown is that hard work and a little bit of luck can pay off. “All the guys who have been taken from us have been in different circumstances,” Dixon said.
“You’ve had Brett Goodes, who was a little bit older, Cameron Wood was looking for a second time in the system, Adam came across from an aligned club [Northern Blues] to a stand-alone club and guys like Jack Frost and Andrew Gallucci have done the hard yards in the development team and then come through.
“It shows there are different ways you can get drafted and get into the system.”
Meanwhile, the Seagulls have signed former Western Bulldogs tall Ayce Cordy on a two-year deal. He will fill the key forward vacancy left by outgoing premiership star Scott Clouston.