Young stars to live AFL dream
The Riddell District Football League is excitedly celebrating the news that four of its top line young players have been drafted to the AFL next year.
Macedon's Lachlan Plowman (Greater Western Sydney) and Matt Dick (Sydney), Gisborne Rookies' Jonathon O'Rourke (Greater Western Sydney) and Rupertswood's Sean Gregory (Essendon) were drafted to AFL clubs at the National Draft in Sydney on Thursday.
O'Rourke was selected at pick two, Plowman at pick three, Dick at pick 64 and Gregory at pick 88. The boys represented four of seven players that were drafted from the Calder Cannons TAC Cup Under 18s team.
"It really shows the progress that we're (RDFL) making and the Cannons program is exceptional," RDFL junior development coordinator Rob Beatson said, "it is a credit to how they have developed and their selection is just as much about their development as young people as it is their ability to play footy."
The introduction of the RDFL Junior Development program this year has played an important role in developing the skills of younger players to compete against the larger talent pools of other leagues.
Beatson praised the efforts of local boys, Plowman, Dick and O'Rourke, who have shown a high level of commitment to achieve their AFL dream. He said that in order to make it to the AFL, young players need a high level of competitiveness, a willingness to learn, support from their parents and a good mindset.
Jonathan O'Rourke - Gisborne - pick two
The 18-year-old has made a stellar progression to play at the top level. The midfielder played all his junior football with the Gisborne Rookies and was a member of the Australian Institute of Sport in 2011.
"He is a hard-working midfielder and has a great kick," Beatson said, "he is a very classy player."
O'Rourke is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the country. He was a member of the Vic Metro squad that played in the AFL Under 18 Championships and averaged 19 touches a game. He was named in the All Australian team for his efforts. He averaged 23 touches a game in his 11 appearances with the Cannons this year that included 34 touches against the Murray Bushrangers.
Lachlan Plowman - Macedon - pick three
The 18-year-old Sacred Heart College student juggled his footy and VCE this year and is a gifted and talented young player. He started as an onballer and played a pivotal role across half-forward before switching to the backline, a position that he has dominated in and was selected for by Greater Western Sydney. He played centre half-back with the Cannons this year. He missed eight weeks during the season because of an elbow injury and missed the AFL Under 18 Championships. He averaged 15 possessions in six full games played on the back of 15 games last year as an underage player.
"He was drafted as the best player in his position," Beatson said, "he played his only senior game for Macedon as a 15-year-old (against Broadford in round 18, 2010) and was awarded two votes in the Bowen Medal, how good is that?"
Matt Dick - Macedon - pick 64
The 19-year-old was previously a midfielder with Macedon before being groomed as a backman. He played full-back for Vic Metro in the Championships this year and was a gritty competitor. He averaged 14 disposals in 14 games for the Cannons this year and was named in the best five times. He is the only one of the trio not to be part of the A.I.S Academy.
"He was drafted as a running backman and has had to work hard to develop those skills," Beatson said.
Beatson coached Dick at RDFL interleague level and he was the team's designated kick-out player in the backline. He is confident that Dick will suit the Sydney culture very well.
Sean Gregory - Essendon - Pick 88
Sean was predominantly a full forward/wing with junior club Rupertswood. Kicked 5 goals in U/18 grand final in 2011. Sean held down tall defender role all year with Calder Cannons. Has flown under radar all year because of the high profile of other draftees at Calder Cannons. Carried out required roles in defence and was in best players 4 times. Played in Young Guns match before VFL preliminary final this year. Played wing/half back/half forward, kicked 2 goals and looked pretty comfortable playing against bigger bodied opponents.
"Their selection is a step in the right direction for the RDFL," Beatson said, "we have introduced the RDFL Academy and that is a big step."
The competition has featured five players in the Macedon Ranges region join AFL lists in the past 12 months but Beatson signalled that this won't happen all the time. It's now up to the players in the competition to develop the right mindset and make the most of the tools presented to them through their coaches, clubs and representative opportunities.
From the Gisborne Rookies president - Colin Rodgers
"From the club's point-of-view, it is fantastic to see a player (O'Rourke) get such a great reward for all his efforts," Rodgers said, "he was one of the best picks in the draft and most of the credit should go to him."
Rodgers said O'Rourke has a high level of commitment, trains hard on the track and has supportive parents. He is a great role model to the younger players at the club and there are more younger kids coming through who will be inspired by what he has achieved. Rodgers also paid credit to the efforts of the Macedon Football Club.
"We as a club would like to congratulate Macedon on what they've achieved (with Plowman and Dick drafted)," Rodgers said.
O'Rourke's selection caps off a great year for the individual success in the Gisborne Football Netball Club, at senior level and in the Gisborne Rookies. Scott Walsh won the Bendigo Football Netball League Michelson Medal, former local star Ryan Crowley won Fremantle's best and fairest award, Brent Reilly finished sixth in Adelaide's count, there were 16 Rookies players who played in the senior grand final loss to Golden Square, onballer Lachlan Crosbie is currently training at Essendon in hope for a rookie list selection, and Ollie Clough, James Ferry, Matt Goodyear, Shannon Greetham, Jack James and Brody Lampurgh are currently training with the Calder Cannons Under 18s summer training squad.
From the Macedon Football Netball Club president - Brian Collins
"It is great for the club," Collins said, "our club has always been about player development and if players can player at the highest level that they can, then we've done our bit."
Collins said that as Macedon is a relatively small town, it is fantastic that it has had three players drafted by clubs in the last two years. It started with Dan Markworth winning selection as pick 35 to St Kilda last year followed with Plowman and Dick's selection this year. Collins said their recruitment is a feather in the cap of the coaches at the club who assist in the development of players into the TAC Cup Under 18s competition.
"It is a testament to the TAC teams, I'm impressed with the development of their players and it is great for the AFL," Collins said.