Melbourne have tied Aaron vandenBerg down to the club for another two years after the 23-year-old agreed to a new contract last week that will run until the end of the 2017 campaign.
VandenBerg was the number-two overall pick in 2015’s NAB AFL Rookie Draft when the Demons selected the midfielder from Canberra-based outfit Ainslie, and the Demons have been delighted with how the youngster has adapted to life in the big leagues.
Currently struggling down the bottom of the ladder, albeit in a stronger position than they have been for a while, Melbourne have made sure they don’t lose one of the most exciting prospects to wear the jersey over the past couple of years.
After making a promising start to the season, scoring his first goal in the Round 1 clash against the Gold Coast and starting the first 10 games of the campaign, vandenBerg picked up a hamstring injury in the Round 10 defeat to Collingwood. He went on to miss the next three rounds of matches.
Back fully fit, the rookie could be fast-tracked back into a team that has shown what it is capable of by beating Geelong in Round 12. While it might still be too early to start thinking the Demons will be making an impact in the AFL betting, a full-strength Melbourne side could have an outside chance of pushing for a top-eight finish if they can build on their win over Geelong and put together a winning run.
In his first 10 appearances of the year, vandenBerg averaged a solid 17.5 disposals and over five tackles a match, adding a no-nonsense, strong presence to the Demons’ stoppage. A shoulder injury had resulted in the mature-age recruit missing a large section of Melbourne’s pre-season and his performances during the first half of the year certainly bode well.
While there might be a number of areas of his game which could be improved, the way vandenBerg has settled into life in this Melbourne team has been one of the club’s success stories this season. Having already won four games this year, the same amount they managed throughout the entire 2014 campaign, this has already been a far more enjoyable affair for Demons fans.
VandenBerg is one of a number of players returning to action from injury, with Angus Brayshaw cleared to rejoin the squad after suffering a neck problem in the defeat to the West Coast. The midfielder has been one of the stars of the season and the news that he had avoided serious injury was a huge dollop of good fortune for Melbourne heading into an important part of the year.
Brazilian-born defender Heritier Lumumba is expected to be back in contention following the foot injury that kept him out of the defeat to the Eagles in Round 14. Having made the move to the Demons from Collingwood at the end of last season, the 28-year-old has been a revelation in this Melbourne defence, adding both experience and strength to a back-line that has often lacked it.