‘Who has impressed you so far this pre-season?’ If you ask that question at West Coast, chances are you’ll get the same answer. And it’s not hard to see why it’s almost always ”Reuben Ginbey”. Not only is the 19-year-old taller - as you would expect from a growing teenager - but he’s also bigger, stronger, fitter and quicker this time around. In the early stages of his second pre-season, the former first-round pick is “going to another level,” according to teammate Jeremy McGovern. “Reuben Ginbey is growing every time you see him, he’s literally growing,” McGovern told The West. “He’s putting some weight on and the level his running he is at, he’s going to another level. He’s been training really well.” In his draft year, the East Perth utility measured 189cm and 85kg. By the time he donned blue and gold for the first time, he had grown again. That also followed a massive growth spurt leading up to the draft, which shocked even his junior coach Mark Collins, who had watched him sprout from Auskick. “In the last two years prior to getting drafted, he just bloomed. He just shot up. No one could believe it,” Collins said. Since the end of his first campaign, Ginbey has added even more size in a bid to not get pushed around by more senior opponents. New teammate Matt Flynn, who joined the Eagles from Greater Western Sydney two months ago, said Ginbey reminded him of a young Tom Green. The Eagles young gun labelled that “a massive compliment”. “Tom Green is one of the up-and-coming midfielders in the game. He’s a really strong inside bull,” Ginbey said. “I played on him in my second game, I think he had 30 touches and probably three Brownlow votes on me. “If I can model my game on something like his, I’ll be really stoked with that.” Ginbey made an impression in his first handful of games for his tackling pressure, earning a Rising Star nomination in round three, the week after the reality check from Green. He had 20 disposals, eight tackles, six clearances and 13 contested possessions as the Eagles lost to the team he grew up supporting, Fremantle. Following the western derby, Ginbey had laid more tackles than any other player in the competition with 26 - three clear of the next best. Next season, he’s looking to make a few more stick. “I’ve put on five kilos and hopefully grown a few centimetres as well,” Ginbey said. “I think at the moment, that’s probably hanging around 90 kilos and 190cm, that’s probably where I’ll stay for most of my career.” And the extra yards he’s taken to get there is not going unnoticed by coach Adam Simpson. “The second-year players are always the ones you look out for because they now know what it’s like to have a proper off-season and get ready,” Simpson said. “All the guys, the second-year players all look in pretty good shape.... Reuben has really stood out.” Unfortunately for Ginbey, his debut season came to an abrupt end after a hamstring injury in round 18. That ended his run of 17 consecutive games to start his career, which had started in round one. The Dunsborough Sharks product missed the final six games of 2023, undergoing minor surgery in the hopes of minimising the risk of future soft tissue issues. So far, it’s been “smooth sailing” for him since going under the knife. “I’ve had no dramas at all (with my hamstring) since the surgery,” he said. “It’s actually stronger than my other leg now, so it’s a good sign. “I’ve been pretty obsessed with my training and working since I’ve done my injury, just to come back fitter and stronger this year. “This is the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been, so coming into this year, I’m really excited to see how I can improve on last year.” Ginbey returned to his coastal hometown this week as the Eagles visited the south west for the club’s community camp. He wore and blue and gold polo for most of that trip, in a far cry from his junior days. “He always wore a Dockers jumper, that’s not a secret,” Collins laughed. “He was always very focused on the Dockers and loved Nat Fyfe. “It was hilarious (when he got drafted by West Coast). The whole family switched over to the Eagles.” While he willingly gave up the purple, Ginbey kept his sun-bleached blonde mop, which Collins said made him stand out from a young age. “Well you can see the colour of his hair, he’s the blondest kid on the footy field,” he said. “He was absolutely a stand out with his hair. “But he was the gentlest soul and would do anything for you off the field. “A very quiet person, actually but then on the field he was just dynamite. He was just a terrier.” That sentiment was echoed by his childhood sport teacher, Louisa Chapman, whom Ginbey greeted with a warm smile at his primary school. She said even as a kid, his athletic ability was obvious. But it was his care for others, particularly those with less ability than him, that stuck with his mentors. “He was extremely determined, even as a little tacker, but also really caring,” she said. “We had a few other kids in that year group that did have their challenges, Reuben would always be the one looking out for them and being a voice for them.” That mix of work ethic, patience and communication are just a few of the reasons he’s already been tipped for captaincy in the future. Eagles great Scott Cummings called it five games into his career, telling SEN he had “captain written all over him”. And Ginbey is just one cog in an Eagles midfield building for the long-term, with Elijah Hewett, Campbell Chesser and more recently Clay Hall and Harley Reid joining the fold. “The future is looking really bright,” as Ginbey says so himself.