With footy set to return this weekend, most of the league would have enjoyed the opportunity to have a mental refresh ahead of what I believe will be the season’s most exciting period.
But this exciting period isn’t just limited to what is occurring in our local league. This time of year is often a crucial period for those elite underage players from our region to go onto the higher representative levels (beyond the NAB League) and test themselves against the best of the nation.
Vic Country selection is often the next step of the draft journey for potential draft prospects. NAB League selection and games start the process, but playing in the AFL National Championships is essentially the pathway’s make-or-break period (with the exception of a few).
Performances in the championships give younger players the opportunity to showcase their skills and talent against others vying for a spot on an AFL list normally on AFL grounds, creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those selected.
Recruiters not only want to see what they can do against quality opposition, but they want to see who shows that they can handle the mental aspect of the games, and handle it well.
Good performances increase draft stock, okay performances leave recruiters wanting to see more at NAB League level and bad performances may have clubs strongly considering other options.
All of this is part of the draft process and while it can be a pretty high-pressure period, if you were to ask anyone who has been through it before, nine out of 10 would say it is an exciting time for those players, their families and their home clubs.
In 2021, the HFNL is lucky to have multiple representatives in Vic Country sides, which is a testament to both the league and its clubs.
In the under 19s, Portland’s Jamieson Ballantyne and one of my team-mates, Hamish Sinnott (Camperdown) will take on Vic Metro at Windy Hill on Friday.
With respect to Jamieson and not having seen him play, it’s great for him to receive the opportunity and reward for strong NAB League performances so may he take his chance with both hands.
For Hammer and having witnessed first-hand the time and effort he has put into chasing his AFL dream, he deserves his crack at this level and I know regardless of the result, he will acquit himself well.
Alongside both of the boys playing well (hopefully) and representing their respective clubs and the league well, let’s hope they use this opportunity as a starting point to potentially go onto higher honours (fingers crossed fellas).
Moving on to the under 17s and we have South Warrnambool’s George Steven featuring in two Vic Country games in the past seven days, while Hamilton Kangaroo Vincent Huf was earlier in contention for selection.
While I haven’t seen Vincent play, what he’s since produced at NAB League level at his age should only indicate that a senior football debut isn’t far away if the Rebels don’t keep him.
As for George, I was fortunate enough to witness his debut match and for a kid his age in his first senior game, his composure, class and courage was clearly evident to the point that it would not be a surprise if he snared a couple of Maskell Medal votes.
Here’s hoping the quartet above get every opportunity to go on to be the league’s next crop of AFL stars.
They only have to look to past HFNL graduates to represent Vic Country and then get drafted such as Jordan Lewis (Warrnambool), Gary Rohan and Ben Cunnington (Cobden), Billie Smedts (North Warrnambool), Jackson Merrett (Cobden), Lewis Taylor (Terang Mortlake), Jay Rantall (South Warrnambool), Willem Drew (Koroit) and Hugh McCluggage (South Warrnambool) among others for inspiration as they chase every young footballer’s dream!
Author: Fraser Lucas