Swans draft South African

Tuesday, December 07 2010 @ 12:58 pm ACDT

Contributed by: Troy Thompson

The Sydney Swans have added to their band of foreign legion players, picking up South African-born Eugene Kruger in today’s AFL rookie draft.

Kruger, 19, has been training with the Swans and has been outstanding on the pre-season running track, blitzing the field in the 3km time trial two weeks ago. He lives in Sydney and has played Australian football seriously for less than two years, lining up for local side, East Coast Eagles.
Kruger came to Australia from South Africa with his parents and younger sister in 2000, when he was eight years old.
At the time, his only language was Afrikaans, but he settled quickly into the Australian way of life and forged a promising junior sporting career in rugby union and athletics while at secondary school in Sydney.

Kruger was playing representative rugby and didn’t pick up an Australian Rules ball until he was 15. “Coming from South Africa, rugby union is everywhere and that was my love. But then a few of my mates played AFL for Westbrook so they asked me to have a run around with them when I was 15. I played about 10 games but it was just social,’’ Kruger said.

But after he finished Year 12 at Sydney’s Barker College, where he had been in the First XV rugby team, Kruger decided to spend more time playing the Australian game. He played U18s at East Coast Eagles, and then played in the senior side in the Sydney football league this year, helping the Eagles to the premiership.

He also played a few games as a top-up player in the Sydney Swans Reserves, kicking four goals in one game and bringing him to the attention of Swans coaching staff. In October, Kruger was asked to train with the Swans and a month later he finds himself a rookie-listed player.

“I was nervous when I first came down to train but I’ve worked really hard to get this one chance,’’ he said. “When John Longmire told me they were going to put me on the rookie list, I smiled so much I was a bit embarrassed. I was like a kid in a chocolate factory!’’

Kruger comes from a sporting family. His sister, Zane, 16, is the number one ranked tae kwon do player in Australia, and his mother Valme was a top ranked 800m runner in South Africa. Kruger has played on the wing and half back flank for the East Coast Eagles. He says he needs to work on his kicking and is eager to soak up all he can about the game.

“I love the camaraderie of AFL and being here at the Swans. I love the fact that the game tests you mentally and physically in so many ways. I just like every challenge that is coming my way at the moment. The unpredictable nature of the game is what attracts me most.’’

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