rollercoaster ride leaves Worrell primed for exciting career
Josh Worrell didn’t make the Dragons’ under 16 squad.
He was told his training standards were inadequate.
Two years later, the 195cm prospect presents as one of the most promising of all key-position players in 2019’s draft crop.
It’s a story which already involves its fair share of twists and turns, but to take it back to the beginning, the journey started for a 10-year-old Worrell at the Bentleigh Junior Football Club.
His time there was relatively short-lived, moving to Prahran in under 15's in pursuit of division-one football, with the added bonus of playing under the tutelage of Essendon great James Hird.
“I had James Hird coaching me so that was a pretty cool story,” he reflected.
It was a turbulent time for Hird, who was at the centre of the infamous Essendon scandal.
Worrell, nonetheless, was able to digest an invaluable series of footballing lessons.
“Obviously the whole situation with the drug scandal was going on,” he said.
“[But] I just think he was still able to come week in week out to our games and just the professionalism about him, each week he’d still rock up to our games doing his thing.
“I think that’s the main thing. Footy—although it can be tough—it can also be an escape”
Not long later, though, and Worrell was informed he would not form part of the Sandringham Dragons under 16's squad.
It’s perhaps the most important point in the journey yet, and one Worrell describes as a turning point which he still uses as a source of motivation.
“I think probably the biggest thing for me is I didn’t make the 16's Dragons squad of 30,” he said.
“I kind of got a kick up the arse from that and it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
“Steve Nash (U16's coach at the time) came up to me and said 'look, your training standards aren’t up to scratch' and I took that on board and I think ever since then I feel like I’ve been working hard to get to this point and I think each training session you’ve got to go out there and give it your all.”
The improved work rate and mindset has seen significant results.
Impressing as an intercept defender for the Dragons earlier in the season, Worrell was swung forward in the national championships and, remarkably, ended the competition as Vic Metro’s leading goalkicker, propelled by a bag of four against Western Australia and three against South Australia.
It was a carnival which brought out both competitiveness and enjoyment.
“I loved every bit of it,” Worrell declared.
“Just the level in which the comp raises to is extraordinary. First game kind of caught me off guard a bit, I felt a bit in the deep end, but found my feet towards the back end of the champs.”
Intriguingly, though, it hasn’t always been back or forward for Worrell.
In the past, he was used predominantly in the ruck, and carried the weight of the big man duties throughout his 2017 school football season for Haileybury, as a year 10.
“I used to spend most of my time in the ruck, it’s only in the last couple of years I swung down back,” he explained.
“In year 10, obviously I played in a pretty privileged team with Charlie Constable, Andy Brayshaw and obviously Max and Ben King, but yeah, I was in the ruck not really doing too much, just had to hit it vaguely in the zone to one of the midfielders and we’d be fine.”
It was a team which has produced a multitude of now-AFL players over the past two drafts, and one which Worrell learnt plenty from.
“I learnt a lot from all those boys,” he said.
“I think Max and Ben I’m pretty close with, they kind of took me under their wing as a year 10, but I think just learning off the Brayshaw's and Constable's and those sorts of blokes, it’s just kind of been interesting to see them develop at AFL level.
“I always have in the back of my mind, ‘there’s a potential this could really happen, this could be you soon’, so it’s kind of weird to think you were running out with them in school football and next thing you know they’re running out onto the MCG.”
Worrell’s 2019 campaign ended on a bitter note, undergoing a shoulder reconstruction following an injury against the Western Jets.
Don’t expect it to stand in his way for much longer, though.
“In terms of rehab and fitness, [I’m] really on track to get back into it, [I’ll] hopefully get stuck into day one of pre-season fit and ready,” he said.