U18 Academy player facts and Vic Country Squad

The Queensland State Academy class of 2016 gets down to business this Sunday in their first practice match against Victoria Country in Melbourne.

Following this weekend, the Academy will play two TAC Cup games against the Northern Knights and Western Jets, before the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championship gets underway on May 8.

The best players from the four Division Two teams will then be selected to play in a combined Allies team, who will play in the Division 1 championships.

But before it all kicks off, we thought we would get to know this year’s crop, with a few facts about each player.


Nate Dennis (ruck/forward)
Junior club(s): Kawana Park
Senior club(s): UQ

  • Was discovered through a rookie search program the Brisbane Lions Academy at age 16
  • Achieved an OP1
  • Can juggle


Harry Simington (midfield/back)
Junior club(s): Tamborine, Pacific Pines, Coomera
Senior club(s): Labrador

  • Was born in an ambulance on the side of the highway
  • Math wiz
  • Vice captain of the Queensland Under 16 State Academy last year


Nick Kempe (forward)
Junior club(s): Pioneer Power, North Mackay Saints, Eastern Mackay
Senior club(s): Eastern Mackay

  • Started Auskick at age 4 in Mackay
  • Won the Mackay Under 18 best and fairest as a 16 year old
  • Lives by the motto “the harder you work the luckier you become.”


Jacob Dawson (midfield)
Junior club(s): Burleigh
Senior club(s): Burleigh

  • Credits his coach since Under 12’s at Burleigh, Troy Crossely with a lot of his development.
  • Not just a good footy player, also a member of the Palm Beach Currumbin School Academic Excellence Program
  • Father Paul played NBL basketball


Kai Sheers (midfield/forward)
Junior club(s): Broadbeach
Senior club(s): Broaddbeach

  • Mother played volleyball for Queensland and Australia
  • Two-time premiership player
  • In and under midfielder, ferocious at the contest


Elliot Himmelberg (forward)
Junior club(s): Eastlakes, Wagga, Mt Gravatt
Senior club(s): Mangoplah CUE, Mt Gravatt

  • Brother of Harrison Himmelberg, GWS player
  • Wants to be a secondary physical education teacher
  • Mother Maryanne played college basketball in the USA


Curtis Marsden (midfield/back)
Junior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin
Senior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin

  • Was a little athletics gun before focusing on footy, super quick
  • Lives and breathes sports, including studying a Bachelor of Sports Development
  • Childhood footy hero was Chris Judd


Ryan Dadds (forward)
Junior club(s): Morningside
Senior club(s): Morningside

  • In the process of starting his own clothing label
  • Mother was a Queensland trampolinist
  • Made his NEAFL debut as a 17 year old for the Brisbane Lions


Will Fletcher (defender)
Junior club(s): Sherwood
Senior club(s): Western Magpies

  • Didn’t start playing footy until Under 14’s at Sherwood
  • A defender who loves to take the game on, like Josh Gibson for Hawthorn
  • Aspirations of owning his own physiotherapy company which has a clinic in every state


Brodie Foster (midfield)
Junior club(s): Surfers Paradise
Senior club(s): Surfers Paradise

  • Queensland Under 15 Best and Fairest
  • Has a twin sister
  • Hard at the contest, but great evasive skills


Sam Copland (forward/midfield)
Junior club(s): Coolaroo, Darling Downs Crows, Sherwood
Senior club(s): Western Magpies, Coolaroo

  • Was a standout for the Western Magpies in the QAFL last year as a 16 year old
  • Has two part time jobs as a cleaner and gardener outside of footy
  • A Toowoomba product


Jack Clayton (midfield)
Junior club(s): West Juniors

  • Has represented Queensland since Under 12’s
  • Won the Under 17 Cricket National Championships with Queensland
  • Lived in France for a year, and speaks French.


Josh Williams (forward/back)
Junior club(s): Glenmore, Hermit Park, Labrador
Senior club(s): Hermit Park, Labrador

  • Plays by the words “man, not mouse,” which his father Michael says to him
  • AFL Townsville Rookie of the Year
  • Speaks Indonesian and loves to cook


Jacob Allison (midfield)
Junior club(s): Kedron, Aspley
Senior club(s): Brisbane Lions NEAFL

  • All Australian Under 18 as a bottom ager in 2015
  • Second middle name is Luke, because of his love of Star Wars as a kid
  • NAB AFL Academy member with a huge kick and strong overhead mark


Campbell Walker (midfield/back)
Junior club(s): Morningside
Senior club(s): Morningside/Redland

  • Studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Science
  • Football idol is Sam Mitchell
  • Redlands College Sports Captain


Max Spencer (back)
Junior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin
Senior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin

  • Played all his footy and Palm Beach Currumbin since eight years old. First senior game at 16
  • Gained direct entry into a Bachelor of Nursing, and eventually wants to be an emergency paramedic
  • Rarely beaten one-on-one defensively, is a rock in the backline


Luca Mason (midfield/back)
Junior club(s): Jindalee, Coorparoo, Sherwood
Senior club(s): UQ

  • Father was a Junior Squash World Champion
  • Best advice he has ever been given is work harder than the next person
  • Lit up the wing for the UQ QAFL team in 2016


Reid Gordon (midfield)
Junior club(s): Coolum, Noosa
Senior club(s): Noosa

  • Apprentice carpenter
  • Loves the way Jimmy Bartel plays his footy
  • Extremely clean hands in a marking contest


Connor Ballenden (forward)
Junior club(s): Kenmore, Wests Juniors
Senior club(s): UQ

  • Born in New Zealand
  • Love of football started at age 7 after watching the AFL Grand Final on TV
  • AFL Under 16 Division 2 MVP in 2015


Luke O’Sullivan (midfield)
Junior club(s): Springwood, Mt Gravatt
Senior club(s): Mt Gravatt

  • Great grand mother is 104 years old
  • Won the MVP award for the Under 16 Queensland Volleyball team
  • Earns a bit of cash by working at a burger bar


Jack Rolls (midfield)
Junior club(s): Coorparoo, Morningside
Senior club(s): Morningside

  • First name is actually John
  • Credits his bother Tom as the biggest influence on his career, working side by side with him
  • NAB AFL Academy member, who breaks lines out of the backline


Harris Newton (ruck/forward)
Junior club(s): Southport, Surfers Paradise
Senior club(s): Surfers Paradise

  • Grandfather Neville Crowe captained Richmond from 1963-1966, and father Richard played for Hawthorn in the VFL
  • Can complete a rubik’s cube in under two minutes
  • Ruckman with elite endurance who presents well around the ground


Declan Watson (back)
Junior club(s): Aspley, Redcliffe
Senior club(s): Aspley

  • Father Haydn played in the Queensland state team from 1984-1986
  • Studying a business degree at QUT
  • Debuted for Queensland in the Under 12 side


Brayden Crossley (ruck/forward)
Junior club(s): Burleigh
Senior club(s): Burleigh

  • Kicked five goals as a bottom age player in his Burleigh Under 14 premiership
  • Aggressive tall player, who influences the contest around the ground
  • Father Tony is a Queensland football legend, having a distinguished career at Burleigh and Southport


Daniel Charlesworth (midfield)
Junior club(s): Cairns City, Redlynch
Senior club(s): Cairns City, Surfers Paradise

  • Captain of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy team
  • Moved out of home in Cairns at age 16 to the Gold Coast
  • Plays a lot like Carlton player Patrick Cripps


Jackson Collins (midfield/forward)
Junior club(s): Burleigh, Palm Beach Currumbin
Senior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin

  • His Father Daniel won two Olympic medals (bronze 1996 and silver 2000) kayaking
  • Was the Australian Under 17 single ski silver medalist
  • Clean freak


Jaicob Kenny (back)
Junior club(s): Surfers Paradise, Labrador, Southport
Senior club(s): Labrador

  • Labrador senior premiership player in 2015
  • Very good rebound defender, who can also lock down on an opponent
  • Father Mick is a three time Labrador premiership player


Jesse Esam (midfield)
Junior club(s): Essington, Southern Districts, Coomera, Broadbeach
Senior club(s): Broadbeach

  • Spent most if his life living in Darwin, before moving to Queensland in 2010.
  • Loves anything to do with the outdoors like camping, water sports and fishing
  • Can play the guitar and drums


Brad Scheer (midfield)
Junior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin
Senior club(s): Palm Beach Currumbin

  • NAB AFL Academy member
  • Senior debut at 15 in the QAFL with Palm Beach Currumbin
  • Was a very good tennis player and swimmer as a kid, before focusing on Australian rules

Jack Bowes (midfield)
Junior club(s): Mandura, Cairns Saints
Senior club(s): Cairns Saints

  • Was a junior Australian Futsal representative in 2011 and 2012 (good foot skills)
  • Cairns Saints junior premiership player
  • Scott Pendlebury like, always has a lot of time and space with the footy in hand


Shawn Watson (forward/back)
Junior club(s): Redlynch, Cairns Saints
Senior club(s): Cairns Saints

  • Studying a Diploma of Health Science at Griffith
  • Strong key forward who can clunk a big mark
  • St Andrews Catholic College Sportsmen of the Year 2014, 2015


Jack Payne (back)
Junior club(s): Noosa, Aspley

  • Made the Sunshine Coast Under 12 rep team despite hardly playing footy before
  • State championship medalist in shot put and discuss
  • Big aviation buff

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By Andrew Wiles


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