IN a field boasting the likes of Ryan Byrnes, Jay Rantall, and Mitch Mellis – all of whom had both played representative football and received combine invites this year – Western Jets skipper Lucas Rocci came through to become his side’s first ever Morrish Medal winner.
It was a surprise to the Western mainstay, who enjoyed a stellar mid-year run to finish the regular season averaging 18.9 disposals, 4.1 marks, 4.1 tackles and 5.1 rebound 50s, and earn a Team of the Year nod to boot.
“(I came in) definitely not expecting to win,” Rocci said post-ceremony.
“I thought I’d make the Team of the Year but I just didn’t expect to have the Morrish Medal around my neck really… this is a big deal to me, winning this medal.”
“It’s a privilege really to know that I’m on the same page as (previous winners Liam Stocker, Hugh McCluggage, and Clayton Oliver) to see them running around today in the AFL, just watching how they play sometimes you learn from them – how they play and how they go about it.”
While his damaging left foot and ability to accumulate became key to his finals-bound Jets’ cause, Rocci maintains it is his willingness to take on the opposition’s best players in his defensive post that gives him a competitive edge.
“I’m a competitor, so I enjoy playing on people who enjoy being a competitor and enjoy the physicality of a match-up… (the move to defence) was definitely one of the reasons for that purple patch through the year,” he said.
“I started off slow and moved around a little bit on the field… then Ryan (O’Keefe) our coach put me back to the half-back line and it all just kicked off from there and just felt natural down there.”
“Ryan’s been amazing, when I talk to him he’s so invested in your game style… he put me down (back) and put all his faith in me so I returned the favour.”
Putting his hand up for the toughest tasks each week is something Rocci says comes naturally in his position of leadership, and that theme is set to continue heading into finals as Rocci again readies to again face Northern, who boast a player Rocci says has been his toughest match-up yet.
“Josh D’Intinosante from Northern, who I’ve played on a couple of times, you can never get a handle on him so he’s definitely a very good player.
“As it comes, (in the) backline we go shape and size so if I come up against him, I come up against him but I’m not going to sit myself on him… if he starts getting damaging I’ll go to him, but if not I’ll just play my normal role and go from there,” he said.
As was the case in Rocci’s individual season, Western’s year has undergone its ebbs and flows, with the Jets snapping a late-season skid to slip into finals on the back of an impressive win only yesterday against Greater Western Victoria. Rocci says the belief is back, putting them in good stead for an all-Metro finals clash.
“We’ve come off a couple of games at the end of the season, a couple of smashings so it’s good to gain some momentum today and we started playing as a team again – we put some belief back in the team,” he said.
“(During the week) now it’s just getting around everyone and making sure that everyone’s up and about at training sessions and 100 per cent on the ball, ready to go.”
It was a fruitful awards night for the Jets as spearhead forward Archi Manton – son of Glenn – claimed the NAB League leading goalkicker award, with Rocci lauding his presence up the other end throughout the year.
“When I can I get it (forward) and sit it on top of his head because he’s such a strong guy and he just moves his opponent out of the way and takes those big marks to finish it off really well,” he said.
With the season coming to its pointy end, Rocci and his fellow draft hopefuls will begin to look towards what the future holds. Despite missing Vic Metro selection and combine invites, Rocci says his eye is still very much set on getting to the next level.
“(Getting drafted), that’s everyone’s dream, it’d be a dream come true to get there but we’ll just wait and see.”