Story thanks to Geordie Cowan from the Whittlesea Leader.
Photo: Mark Dadswell
YOU can’t keep the smile off Justin Wenke’s face when he talks about Northern Knights star Jack Petruccelle.
The coach is an unabashed fan of the 18-year-old who has taken the TAC Cup competition by storm, highlighted by back-to-back best-afield performances for his team before the weekend’s Victoria Metro trial game.
“I sit back and go, ‘Wow, how exciting’s that?’,” Wenke said.
“He’s probably matchwinning with his ability to find the ball and kick the goals that needed to be kicked.”
Wenke’s words came after the 184cm half-forward booted five goals to go with 18 possessions and four tackles to lead the Knights to a 14-point win against Gippsland Power.
“He’s just electrifying with some of the things he does,” Wenke said. “His running, acceleration, aerial ability.
“He’s just got raw athletic ability, speed and power.”
Pre-season testing had Petruccelle as the quickest player in the TAC Cup, running 20m in 2.82 seconds and ranking sixth in the vertical jump test.
“They stand out on the ground because nobody else has them,” Wenke said.
“That’s the wonder with ‘Petch’.
“When he gets the ball, he has the acceleration to get past and he’s not 1m in front, he’s 4-5m.”
However perhaps the most exciting part of the right-footer’s make-up is how much development is left in him.
The Epping resident only committed to football fulltime late last year after devoting much of his previous sporting career to basketball, representing Victoria at the national championships and having been an AIS Academy member.
“The beauty about that is that he has learned really quickly,” Wenke said.
“Sometimes when you’ve played footy for a long time, you develop bad habits that can be hard to change.
“But his ability to learn and listen and take it on board is a real credit to him.”
Petruccelle said it was “very tough” to make the decision to drop basketball.
“I had been playing basketball all my life. Basketball was my priority,” he said.
“I was playing seven days a week, so it was very tough to come back down to no days.
“I was just always thinking I was going to play both.
‘‘Even last year I was still playing basketball and trying to fit it all in.
“But it was getting too much so I decided one of them had to go.”
The Carlton supporter credits much of the skills that have flourished in football to what he developed through basketball — especially his leap.
“All I wanted to do as a kid was dunk the ball, so I was always working on my jumping,” Petruccelle said.
“I think it also helped interception-wise. Basketball helps with that, trying to read the play in footy.”
“My kicking, that’s the No.1 thing I have to get right,” Petruccelle said.
The Marymede Catholic College student first came to the notice of the Knights after impressing at a mid-season trial game in 2016, going on to play a handful of games.
He said he was fortunate to already have a couple of good friends at the Knights to help him settle in.
“But it’s such a good environment and it’s got a pretty good culture,” Petruccelle said. “All the boys are pretty close to each other, you can talk to everyone and be best mates with them all.
“Now I’m loving it.
“Once I got the invite to the Knights, I thought this might be my last chance, and I think it’s been the right decision.”