By Ben Pollard
The AFL Under-16 National Championships begin this weekend in Blacktown, NSW. The Championships attract the nation’s best young football talent and four SMJFL juniors will be among those representing Vic Metro.
The Vic Metro boys will play against South Australia on Saturday July 6, Vic Country on Tuesday 9th and Western Australia on Friday 12th.
Let’s find out about our league’s representatives and – given the boys are also part of the Sandringham Dragons development squad – ask Dragons region manager Ryan O’Connor to give his thoughts on each.
Junior club: Mordialloc-Braeside
In a nutshell: Athletic ruckman. Strong runner with a brilliant left-foot kick. Has a basketball background.
ROC says: “Dylan is one of the best tall prospects in the Under 16s, bar none. He’s maybe just getting an understanding of what he can do on the footy field and gaining the confidence to go with that. Dylan has really learnt a lot in the last two or three months about how to ruck and how to be physical, which I suppose you don’t necessarily have to do in basketball.”
Junior club: East Sandringham
In a nutshell: Potential key-position player with great marking ability. Strong work rate and running capacity.
ROC says: “In terms of competitiveness and work rate, Nick is a coach’s dream. We don’t talk about first or second efforts with him – we talk about third and fourth efforts. We’re hoping he continues to grow and fill out and can be a key-position player, but with his work rate and running ability, he can be a midfielder as well at the moment. The one area we do have to work on with Nick is his kicking, but I know he’s working really hard on that.”
Junior club: South Melbourne
In a nutshell: Fierce competitor. Has a knack of finding the football and runs hard.
ROC says: “Theo probably has one of the more mature bodies in our Under 16s program. He’s quite strong and he’s a very determined player. Probably the area we’re looking for Theo to improve upon most is his disposal efficiency, but with his leadership qualities and the way he gets the best out of himself, he should do very nicely.”
Junior club: East Sandringham
In a nutshell: Athletic medium-sized tall. Possesses unique agility. Has a basketball background.
ROC says: “Tom has great athletic attributes in terms of his side-to-side movement, his speed and also his vertical leap. He probably has a bit of growth left in him and we need to bulk him up a little at this stage. He’s actually in the Australian basketball side for his age group, so Tom’s one that we’d be very keen to hopefully choose football as his pathway.”
The unlucky ones:
ROC says: “Nathan Peterson (Mordialloc-Braeside) only had a trial and didn’t end up coming through after he hurt his knee earlier in the series and Luke Globan (Mordialloc-Braeside) didn’t trial because he ended up hurting his hamstring, so they were both very unlucky to miss out. So were Jordan Matera (East Sandringham) and Harry Witts (South Melbourne), who had injuries that limited their preparation.
“They’re a few other kids that are looking in pretty good shape to push up as bottom-age players (next year at the Dragons).”