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Melbourne to pick Chinese teens for AFL scholarships

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Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper reported this morning that the AFL's Demons will pick two Chinese teenagers for training scholarships in its upcoming 10-day China tour. Melbourne's connections with the city of Tianjin, as well as junior programs and/or clubs in Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong have been a regular feature on WFN and elsewhere over the past few months. Maybe this could be the start of something big?

Demons to take away Chinese
Mark Stevens for the Herald Sun, 8th October 2007.

Original article here.

MELBOURNE will hand-pick two teenagers for training scholarships during its 10-day trip to China. A delegation of Demons, including new coach Dean Bailey and a group of emerging leaders, leave next Monday on a mission to forge stronger Chinese links.

Scouts in China have already short-listed potential players, but Melbourne will choose two after training sessions on the trip. "We'll cast our eyes over them and bring them back in December," Melbourne chief executive Steve Harris said. The pair will spend up to a month going through the rigours of the pre-season with the Melbourne squad.

Harris has not ruled out recruiting international rookies from China in the future. "There are strapping big boys among them and they are very athletic," he said. "They relish the physical activity. If you've got good hand-eye co-ordination and a good capacity to learn, there is no game you can't learn."

Harris, new football manager Chris Connolly and club figures Ron Barassi and Ron Walker will be part of the trip. Bailey will arrive five days into the expedition. Players on board are Clint Bartram, Matthew Bate, Lynden Dunn, James Frawley, Brock McLean, Michael Newton, Paul Wheatley and Chris Johnson.

They will visit the Great Wall and Olympic sites in Beijing and be greeted by the mayor of Tianjin, Melbourne's sister city.

All players will be put through a personal development program. "The emphasis is on younger players. Wheatley is the only mature-age player," Harris said.

If the trip goes well, the Demons may return next year for a pre-season training camp. Harris said the Chinese connection could lead to an exhibition match against another side or a NAB Cup game. Harris said Melbourne already had strong links with the Chinese community locally.

"As a club called Melbourne, we need to embrace our own city and heritage and the Chinese are an important part of our history and an important part of relationships for the future," Harris said.

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