Crow’s star a Mt.Isa. special

Dynamite Adelaide forward Charlie Cameron is the closest thing to a Queenslander playing in Saturday’s AFL grand final at the MCG.

Like sporting greats Greg Norman, Pat Rafter and Simon Black, Cameron was born in Mt.Isa.

He attended primary school on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and moved to Brisbane to continue his education at Marist College Ashgrove.

At the end of 2011, aged 17, he moved with his family to Newman, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Sadly, despite his extended time in Brisbane, we cannot claim him as a Queensland football product because, although he excelled in baseball, rugby league and rugby union in Brisbane, he never played AFL football in Queensland.

It wasn’t until 2012 that he was talked into playing the national game with the Newman Saints, but so quickly did he progress he was invited late that season to play three Colts games with Swan Districts in the WAFL.

By Round 1 of 2013, after his first pre-season, he had earned a spot in the Swans seniors, and later that year represented WA in the Australian U18 championships.

With no more 40 games of football behind him, he was picked up by the Crows in the 2014 rookie draft.

After playing seven AFL games in 2014 and winning the club’s ‘Best Emerging Talent’ award, he was elevated to the senior list in 2015 and quickly become an automatic pick in the senior side.

It is one of those ‘what could have been’ stories that will forever irk the Brisbane Lions because Cameron was taken by Adelaide with selection  #7  in the 2014 rookie draft – one pick after the Lions took Aspley junior Isaac Conway.

Conway was delisted at the end of the 2014 season without playing a game, and Cameron, at 23, has has played 72 game and kicked 86 goals.

And, worse still, he is set to play a key role in Saturday’s grand final against Richmond after he was best afield in Adelaide’s preliminary final win over Geelong with a career-best five goals.

The immediate family of the indigenous speedster still lives in Newman, but members of his extended family are in Brisbane and he this year he has been linked by the media to the Lions in a possible off-season move despite being contracted to the Crows for 2018.

Cameron, who wears the Crows’ #23 jumper made famous by Andrew McLeod, wasn’t the only gem snared by the club in the 2014 rookie draft.

At selection #40 they picked up Jake Kelly, son of ex-Collingwood premiership player Craig Kelly. He, too, will play in the grand final.

At least that draft wasn’t a total bust for the Lions – they secured Queensland ruckman Archie Smith, who has showed enormous promise in limited AFL games and looks to have a bright future at the club.

Cameron isn’t the only Crows player with ties to Queensland.

Remarkably, 28-year-old key forward Josh Jenkins is one of five players in the 2017 AFL who spent time with Hermit Park in Townsville, along with North Melbourne’s Braydon Preuss and Josh Williams, Gold Coast’s Jarrod Harbrow and Melbourne’s Jake Spencer.

Born in Swan Hill in Victoria, Jenkins attended Townsville State High School and had a stint playing football at Hermit Park while pursuing his former first-choice sport of basketball.

He was a development player with the Townsville Crocodiles in the NBL before deciding football not basketball was his passion, and returning to Victoria to play at Lake Boga, near Swan Hill.

He was invited to a training camp with the GWS Giants ahead of their entry to the AFL, and after being overlooked by the Giants he was drafted as a rookie to Essendon in 2011.

Then, without playing a senior game at the Bombers, he was traded to Adelaide, where he has played 113 games and kicked 228 goal since 2012.

The other playing links to Queensland at the Crows are 19-year-old key forward Elliot Himmelberg, drafted last November from Redland, and 24-year-old ex-Redland ruckman Paul Hunter, who is at the end of his second season on the rookie list.

Himmelberg, brother of GWS Giants youngster Harrison, hasn’t played an AFL game but certainly has a bright future with the Crows, and although he, too, is yet to play at senior level Hunter is tipped to win another contract after an excellent SANFL campaign this year.

Alex Keath, former cricketer turned Crows grand final emergency, also has loose ties to Queensland although he never moved north – he was a foundation signing with the Gold Coast Suns.

There are two players with Queensland links in the Richmond camp – ruckman and grand final emergency Shaun Hampson, and emerging young forward Mabior Chol.

Hampson was originally drafted by Carlton from Mt.Gravatt before switching to Richmond, and Chol is an Aspley product.

Chol made his AFL debut in the last Round of 2016 and although he hasn’t added to his tally this year is expected to earn a third season on the Tigers rookie list in 2018.

Richmond midfielders Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy, in their first season at Tigerland, are former Gold Coast Suns.

Keath and Hampson were named as emergencies last night when both sides named unchanged teams from last week’s preliminary finals.

But the links to Queensland and the two Queensland AFL clubs don’t end with the players.

Former Lions premiership players Justin Leppitsch, Blake Caracella and Craig McRae are in the Richmond coaching staff, while ex-Lions player and NT Thunder coach Xavier Clarke is a Richmond development coach.

The Adelaide off-field team is littered with names familiar to Queensland.

Matthew Clarke, who played 130 games and won a B&F with Brisbane in a playing career that totaled 258 games and also took him to Adelaide and St.Kilda, has been the Crows ruck coach since 2008.

Ironically, he was originally drafted by Richmond as a rookie but was delisted without playing a game.

The Crows’ Head of Football is former Brisbane High Performance Manager Brett Burton, who quit the Lions at the end of 2015 to return to the club where he had played 177 games.

Burton originally went home to fill the same high performance role at the Crows in 2016, but after 12 months in that job was promoted to the top position to replace David Noble, who, ironically moved to the same job at the Lions.

When Burton moved up a notch in the hierarchy he recruited his former Lions off-sider Matthew Hass to fill the role as head of high performance this year.

General Manager – Football Administration under Burton is Phil Harper, former Mayne QAFL coach, Queensland representative and a member of the very first Brisbane Bears training squad in 1987.

Harper is seen regularly on television supervising Crows match day interchanges.

Another familiar face seen regularly on television sitting next to Adelaide coach Don Pyke in the coach’s box is chief football analyst Jarrod Harkness. He, too, worked previously at the Lions.

In prospective AFL milestones on Saturday, Adelaide’s Brad and Matt Crouch have the opportunity to become the 24th pair of brothers all-time and the fifth pair since 1990 to play in an AFL premiership side together.

Brisbane’s Chris and Brad Scott, now coaching at Geelong and North Melbourne respectively, are members of this recent club, along with Port Adelaide’s Chad and Kane Cornes, and Peter and Shaun Burgoyne, and Geelong’s Gary and Nathan Ablett.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is looking to become the fourth person in AFL history to win a premiership at three clubs, having done so as a player at Essendon and Port Adelaide.

The other three are Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews and Mick Malthouse.

Also, if the Crows were to win coach Don Pyke will join the list of people who have coached a premiership 25 years after playing in one.

He was a premiership player at West Coast in 1992 and 1994.

Matthews owns the longest break – 32 years between his first premiership as a player at Hawthorn in 1971 and his last premiership as a coach at Brisbane.

Others in this category are Kevin Sheedy (31 years), Malthouse (30 years), Checker Hughes (28 years), Jock McHale (26 years), Norm Smith (25 years) and Mark Thompson (25 years).

By Peter Blucher

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