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Thursday, June 04 2020 @ 05:02 am ACST

Recruiting; The Izzie and K effect in action

General News

The much hyped about AFL recruitment of NRL ‘converts’ Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau has unabashedly been very heavily weighted to the promotional benefits for the code. No matter how good a player that Karmichael Hunt has already become – his on field value to the Gold Coast Suns Football Club is now measured differently to his initial promotional value both to the club and to the AFL. The increased awareness of Australian Football in new markets and new demographics has been much talked about – and perhaps recent Dandenong Stingrays debutant Agape Patolo may be amongst the first of many to give the game a go - who may otherwise not have - and perhaps make a career from it.

In early May the Herald-Sun featured both Folau and Hunt with the lead in “…their success will convince elite junior talent to make AFL their sport of choice”. With GWS boss and former AFL Game Development Manager Dave Matthews suggesting with respect to attracting Rugby (League) talent, that while Billy Slater could “…walk into an AFL side this week and play a role” that the “..real bonus will be for clubs hoping to target 13 to 15-year-olds in northern states.”

With this in mind – the story of 17 year old Agape Patolo is no doubt hoped to become a more common one. Irrespective of whether Folau or Hunt are the inspiration to try the game, or help reassure a young man to continue with the transition. Reported recently in the Monash Weekly; Patolo, (who grew up in Endeavour Hills in the south-eastern edge of Melbourne) was as a child a rugby union player through and through with no aspirations towards Australian Football. As it turned out, his Rugby coach’s son played footy at the Dandenong Saints JFC, and when the coach asked Agape to ‘fill in’ for his son’s team – the love affair began.

With the impressive dimensions of 196 cm and 97 kgs and with natural athleticism, strength and a leap that has seen Patolo do well in the ruck but also at ground level. His debut Stingrays match was reported in the Peninsula Weekly : "The Stingrays also got a workmanlike debut from ruckman Agape Patolo, who made an impression both in the air and on the ground."

"It was pleasing for us to see Agape make an impact in his first game," (Stringrays Assistant coach Craig) Black said. "Ideally he is a guy we would like to develop into a tall forward who can ruck, but he has a long way to go and a lot of learning and development to go through."

For Patolo, he’s taken the big step of moving from Dandenong High School to Hallam Secondary College where the school runs an Australian Football Academy.

For now, Patolo mixes Stingrays experience with senior footy at Clayton FC in the strong Southern Football League. Ben McGee, the Clayton senior coach is also the head boys coach at the Hallam Academy.

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