VFL Opens its Doors to GB Bulldogs Pair
Thursday, April 05 2012 @ 02:44 am ACST
Contributed by: Tobietta Rhyman
Despite their modest performance at last year’s International Cup, the GB Bulldogs can now boast something that no other country can answer to: the rise of two of their players, Adam Ballard and Anthony Trigg, through football to VFL level.
Though the numbers of foreign players are now increasing, at AFL level to date, all of those players have either been brought up in Australia, or were professionals or upcoming youngsters recruited directly from other sports. Ballard and Trigg however, started playing the game in the UK, before moving over to Australia and joining local teams.
Former England Dragonslayers international Adam Ballard learnt his trade as president of the Durham Saints before joining the Prahran Assumption Football Club in Melbourne, 2011 Premiers in the VAFA Division 3. After a successful tour with the GB Bulldogs at IC11, Ballard was picked up by VFL club Port Melbourne and is currently training as a ruckman in the reserves.
“I’ve been training with Port Melbourne since late December,” Ballard says about his new club. “Pre-season was the most intense programme I’ve ever done: we did a lot of fitness and intense skill type drills. I realised pretty quickly that my skills weren’t as good as most of the other blokes so I’ve been doing extra sessions before and after team practice to try and get up to scratch.”
Among this ‘extra practice’ has been sessions with ex-AFL ruckman Wayde Skipper, who played for Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs.
Welsh-born Dragonslayers’ former captain Anthony Trigg also played with the Durham Saints after he was invited to join by Ballard, who played on his basketball team. After graduating from Durham Uni, Trigg also moved to Melbourne and joined EDFL A-Grade team Maribyrnong Park Lions. After joining the GB Bulldogs in Sydney and Melbourne as their main ruckman, Trigg was selected by the team to take part in the IC11 ‘Draft Star’ combine, where he outperformed many of his counterparts in speed, agility, kicking and handballing accuracy, and most of all, jumping.
AFL Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan, who was at the combine, was very impressed with Trigg’s performance, comparing his height to Fremantle’s ruckman Aaron Sandilands. Sheehan was most surprised that unlike Sandilands, Trigg was also able to sprint and complete the agility course with the same ease as the smaller, flexible players, adding, “He’s young enough to have a lot of improvement in him. We are pretty excited by what we saw today.”
Unsurprisingly, Trigg was then picked as the ruckman for the IC11’s World XVIII team, and for many back home he was a favourite to be selected by a professional club, but instead it was Ballard who was signed up first. Fortunately, after a few months of deliberation, Trigg was finally signed up by Preston’s VFL team Northern Blues, just in time for the start of the season.
Speaking about his new club, Trigg said, “I’m very excited. I have the chance to work with a great coach, Robert Hyde, who has a proven history of developing players. The organisation is fantastic and the players on the squad who I can learn from have been very helpful.”
Having missed most of pre-season, no doubt Trigg will be facing a similar situation to Ballard in trying to catch up to his team mates. Both, however, have already had an opportunity to take to the field and show off their developing skills to their onlooking coaches and peers.
Despite losing his first game with Northern Blues’ development squad, Trigg was confident about his team and his chances for the future. “Although we lost, the team showed some really good patches of footy so I’m confident for the season,” he said. “It’s going to be a great season. I don’t know where it will take me, but I will keep working hard and trying to improve.”
Ballard is also confident about his future, having already worked his way up from the bench to the reserves team’s starting ruckman over the course of the practice games. “My target is to get a senior appearance before the season is done,” he added. ‘Fingers crossed!”
He’s not the only one.
LEFT: Anthony Trigg at the IC11 AFL talent combine. RIGHT: Adam Ballard in his Port Melbourne jumper.