This weekend’s preliminary final in the QAFL, between the Broadbeach Cats and Labrador Tigers, depending on selection is set to feature up to ten young players that have spent time in the Queensland State Academy program.
Given the game is only a couple of days away, it’s a great opportunity to have a look at a handful of the exciting prospects set to take part, along with the wise words of their coaches and Queensland State Talent Coordinator Jim Urquhart.
The game will take place at Cooke-Murphy Oval at 2pm, this Saturday the 16th.
Connor Budarick (16)
The hype around Connor Budarick is already substantial, two years before the 16-year-old smooth moving midfielder is even eligible to be drafted. Just the fact that Budarick not only holds his own at QAFL level, but stamp his authority on games, says volumes about the youngster’s football maturity for his age. Budarick was named the captain of the Under 16 State side this year and was recently chosen to take part in the NAB AFL National Academy Level 1 program. Along with teammate Hewago Paul Owea, Budarick is one of only two players from his age level in Queensland to be selected in the National Academy.
Aaron Shattock (Labrador Coach): “The footy world’s his oyster at the moment. He’s a very talented kid, his biggest problem is he’s only 16 so he can’t get drafted for two years.”
“He uses both sides, he’s tough, doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty tackling and all that.
“I think he’s a natural competitor.”
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He’s clean, and if you’re clean it gives you time. It allows you time and space to use the ball very effectively.”
“He’s very hard at the ball and he does work hard to get back, which is a great asset for an on-baller.”
Jacob Kenny (19)
Kenny has some great teammates to learn with at Labrador, in the likes of Wayde Mills and Dane Watmuff, two fellow defenders that play a similar role intercepting and creating off the half back line. Though Kenny is able to hold down a key post down back, he’s also flexible enough to move into the midfield and it looks like that’s his goal long term. The flexible defender’s ability at ground level makes him an exciting addition to the Tigers defense and definitely one to watch come Saturday.
Dane Watmuff (19) is another skilled youngster from the Tigers and plays in a similar vein to Kenny. Though Watmuff hasn’t come through the State Academy, the 19-year-old is every bit the threat to Broadbeach that Budarick and Kenny are.
Aaron Shattock (Labrador Coach): “Jacob is a two time premiership player already and he’s still a teenager, Dane is the same, he played in a premiership last year.”
“Jacob and Dane are very similar, they can play tall, they can play small, they’re surprisingly very quick.”
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He was certainly in the mix for our state sides, (he’s a) tall, lean defender.”
“He got injured in our program, so we probably didn’t see the best of him but I think he’s going to be a late developer and certainly has the potential to hold down key position in QAFL footy.”
Connor Nutting (17)
Nutting has played a lot of high-level football this year, in the NEAFL, the QAFL and perhaps most importantly in the Academy Series with the SUNS Academy and in the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships with the Allies. Nutting has shown why he’s such a highly rated talent in his games at QAFL level for Broadbeach, playing at either end of the ground and showing of a whole host of attributes, from an incredible leap, to impressive foot skills.
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He’s just come along in leaps and bounds since he played in that Allies game, he’s really stepped up to the next level and understands what’s required to play at the next level.”
“His performances in the QAFL got him a game in the Allies and he was just terrific when he played there, his run off half back was just sensational.”
Brett Andrews (Broadbeach Coach): “He’s got pace, he’s got beautiful feet, he’s got distance in his kicking, from the moment I saw him I thought he was destined for greater things.”
“One of the main things he’s got is dedication.”
Hapeo Bobogi (17)
‘Hapex’ as his nickname goes, has had an impressive season both at QAFL level and in his games for Queensland in the under 17s at state level. The Papua New Guinean product takes the excitement of the game up a notch when he gets the footy and deploys his ability to burst from a stoppage. If given time and space Hapex, along with fellow PNG teammate Kelly, can cause serious trouble and turn a game in the space of ten minutes, side stepping and finding targets with bullet-like passes.
Brett Andrews (Broadbeach Coach): “Hapex plays a bit taller.”
“But they’ve both got beautiful feat. They can both take marks, obviously Hapex has got a bit more of a spring in him and Kel’s a bit more low level.”
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He’s just exciting. He just brings that flair to the game that we love about AFL, where he takes them on, kicks the footy long or runs around and kicks an exciting goal.”
Kelly Kaugla (17)
Kelley is now into his second year of QAFL footy and is really finding his feet as a dangerous forward that can play in the midfield. He’s tough in and under, while also having serious wheels on the outside and a natural sense for where the goals are. Kaugla kicked five in one game against Morningside in round 18, and has kicked plenty of others suitable for his growing highlight reel.
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He’s worked fairly hard, because he is an on-baller he’s gone back defensively and he’s getting the ball at half back and taking them on with his speed and he opens the game up for them.”
Brett Andrews (Broadbeach Coach): “Kelly’s a little bit more in and under.”
“They’re (both) beautiful crumbers and readers of the footy (Hapex and Kelly), and they’ve got one hell of a step on them.”
Kwaby Boakye (18)
Boakye has really added an extra dimension to the Cats defense when he’s played QAFL this year. He refuses to go to ground in the tackle and his explosive, powerful frame allows him to burst through packs and hit targets with his left boot. Kwaby played with the SUNS Academy side this year in the Academy Series and as well as being selected in the Allies squad for the U18 National Champs, also played for the AFL Academy against the Northern Blues in March.
Brett Andrews (Broadbeach Coach): “He’s very powerful and springy. He takes the game on a lot and he’s got pace.”
“He’s a beautiful left footer, obviously (he’s) a really fit athlete.”
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “Kwaby’s got a lot of attributes.”
“Because he’s such a powerful young lad he gets away really quickly. His first five meters are really quick.”
Jesse Esam (19)
Esam has been an important part of Broadbeach’s strong season in 2017, creating drive from half back and going through the middle when needed. The versatile tall has a huge leap and moves with an agility unexpected for his size. One of Esam’s great attributes is that he sees things unfolding before him and he’s quick to dodge the player on the mark to set things up for his team. Expect him to be involved in one of the key matchups come Saturday afternoon.
Brett Andrews (Broadbeach Coach): “He’s a unique type, he’s a decent size and he can play any position. He can play on ball and he can ruck.”
“He’s just a beautiful mark and a beautiful kick.”
Jim Urquhart (Queensland State Talent Coordinator): “He’s a good mark, very long kick, we just didn’t see the best of him because he kept getting injured all the time.”
“He’s full of confidence and that’s good because he breaks the game open.”
. . . and the rest!
There is no shortage of young guns strapping on their boots for this final. Regardless of the result the final on Friday will be an exciting look at some future stars of Queensland footy.
Dane Watmuff (19).
Nicholas Kempe (19), Jack O’Shea (19), Jack Boston (19), Dylan Lancaster (20), Kai Sheers (19), Timakoi Bowie (18).
By Sean Melrose