Contributed by: Brett Northey
One of the AFL's initiatives to encourage more New South Wales youngsters into Aussie Rules is now underway. Whilst as many as a dozen Queenslanders may make their AFL debuts in 2006, testimony to the great strides being made in that state, the greater Sydney area remains relatively unsuccessful at generating draftees. The apprenticeship system now being put in place allows and in fact requires each of the 16 AFL clubs to take on a younger player from NSW, hopefully to increase their development and provide an incentive to other talented juniors that have a choice of many sports. It's hoped this will be extended to international juniors.
The scheme allows 15 to 17 year olds to be signed up from May until January, after which the players can receive coaching from their chosen club. The idea is to keep talented young New South Wales players in an Australian Football pathway when they may otherwise be courted by other sports such as Rugby League or Union or soccer. Each scholarship is from one to three years and from AU$10,000 to AU$20,000 can be put on the table per player per year, fully funded by the AFL, an indication of the money available to the league to ensure it strengthens the code's grip on Australia. Those that like to think all the football codes are co-existing peacefully in Australia might be surprised at the level of "poaching" of junior talent the various competitors are worried about. Of course Australia's victory over Japan in the soccer World Cup would effectively be worth tens of millions of dollars to that code in promotion.
AFL clubs will have first call on their "apprentice" when they reach the draft age of 18. Under the NSW AFL Scholarship Scheme each club must, each year, sign at least one player and can sign a second. Players need to have lived in the eligible New South Wales regions (determined to be development AFL markets) for at least three years.
Wealthy Victorian club Collingwood was the first to act, convincing 15 year old Scott Reed the Magpies should be his club. The Terrigal youngster (near Newcastle in NSW) was believed to have been the target of several other clubs but announced early that the black and whites would win his signature.
Other clubs to sign up kids include Melbourne grabbing Teddy Strudwick (see Melbourne FC Announce NSW Scholarship Player) and Carlton getting Josh Fenaroli. Adelaide netted Broken Hill's Taylor Walker, continuing the strong bond that NSW city has with South Australia (it is actually closer to Adelaide than Sydney, and receives a lot of its media from SA). In fact Walker was already a Crows supporter. See Crows sign Broken Hill junior and Crows' new kid on block.
Let's hope the program will be expanded to include international juniors, who offer as much talent but are in even greater need of exposure to top quality pathways if they are to realise their AFL dream.
World Footy News