Yeo wants a go in Seagull show
Breaking into Williamstown’s deep and talented on-ball division would be a tough ask for any aspirant in 2017, let alone a newcomer to Victoria who’s also returning from an ACL injury.
25-year-old Corey Yeo comes to the Peter Jackson VFL after 54 senior WAFL games with East Fremantle and then Claremont since 2011.
A versatile midfielder, he finished in the top 10 of the WAFL’s Sandover Medal count in 2015 – his second year at Claremont – before succumbing to a pre-season knee injury that wiped out his 2016 campaign.
With last year’s JJ Liston Trophy winner Michael Gibbons, veteran skipper Ben Jolley and 2016 best-and-fairest winner Willie Wheeler commanding spots in the Seagulls’ engine room, Yeo will be battling the likes of fellow 2017 club recruits Mitch Banner, Adam Marcon and Ben Cavarra for midfield minutes.
“I’ve got a fair task in front of me, that’s for sure,” Yeo said.
“I think (senior coach) Andy Collins would like me to play as an inside midfielder and a bit forward. That was probably where I played my best footy at Claremont but I’m a bit versatile too. I can float on the outside of the contest and can do a tagging job as well.
“But our midfield’s stacked.”
While eventually having their colours lowered in a preliminary-final loss to Casey, Williamstown’s star midfielders drove the club to the VFL’s top ranking for contested possessions and clearances per game (159.7 and 45.6 respectively) in the 2016 home-and-away season.
The addition of Banner and Marcon, both 2015 Seagulls premiership players returning after seasons with Ballarat FL club Darley and Richmond’s AFL team respectively, as well as two-time VFL Team of the Year representative Cavarra (ex-Frankston) is ominous not only for competition rivals but also their midfield teammates.
Yeo’s versatility could therefore prove one of his biggest assets. It’s a trait he shares with his brother Elliot, who enjoyed a break-out AFL season with West Coast in 2016 as a midfielder/forward.
“We used to have some battles in the backyard, some serious battles,” Yeo said of growing up with Elliot.
“I’m a couple of years older so I used to try and smash him around, but he’s a lot quicker than me and a lot more naturally athletic.
“We have different personalities. He’s a bit more reserved and set in his ways; I’m a bit more laid-back and easy-going.”
Yeo’s knee injury has had an effect on his personality too, helping him gain some perspective on his football career and forcing him to “really start to appreciate it and not take it for granted”.
He’s hoping to be in full training around a month out from the start of Williamstown’s home-and-away season on April 17, when his quest to break into a star-studded line-up will truly begin.
For now, Yeo is enjoying his time in Melbourne after becoming “a bit bored and stale” in his hometown of Perth. He’d previously moved east for about half a year in 2013, when he played some football with mates at Templestowe in the Eastern FL.
Back then, Yeo lived with former Collingwood and Western Bulldogs player Tom Young, a friend of current Seagulls key forward Ayce Cordy from their time together at Whitten Oval in 2013-14. Yeo’s connection to Cordy helped him land at Burbank Oval for 2017, while Young has since signed with Footscray after returning to Victoria from Sydney.
No doubt Cordy fancied having yet another quality midfielder competing to deliver the ball to him up forward.
* Photo (from Williamstown FC): Corey Yeo at Williamstown's 2017 pre-season training