AFL Selection – Round 13

Another Aspley boy makes good.  By Peter Blucher.

There is a famous finishing school in Switzerland called ‘Brilliantmont’ which teaches young girls social graces and etiquette in preparation for upper class society.

Aspley Football Club is becoming a bit like the equivalent in local football circles.

Now this is a stretch. It’s not really related in any way to football, and there will be those who say it’s a ridiculous analogy.

But if recent history is any sort of guide then playing at Aspley is good preparation for the AFL. And certainly time under the ever-astute John Blair is time well spent for an AFL aspirant.

In the last three years Jono Freeman (2014), Harris Andrews (2015), Liam Dawson (2015), Josh Wagner (2016) and Aliir Aliir (2016) have all played at the highest level after wearing the brown and gold of the Hornets.

Eric Hipwood learned on Tuesday that he will join that list on Saturday with his debut for the Brisbane Lions against West Coast at the Gabba.

And now there is another Aspley graduate after Corey Wagner was selected Thursday night to make his AFL debut for North Melbourne in the Friday night blockbuster against Hawthorn at the MCG.

That means seven of the last 13 AFL debutants from Queensland have been from Aspley.

Mabior Choi, drafted from Aspley to Richmond last year, is awaiting his chance at AFL level.

Even Isaac Conway, a Brisbane rookie in 2014 without playing a senior game, was an Aspley product.

They didn’t all start at Aspley, and spent varying time there, but the fact is that one club has been responsible for more AFL players than all the other clubs combined.

The other six AFL players in the most recent group have been Jesse Joyce (Palm Beach), Ben Keays (Morningside/Redland), Josh Smith (Morningside/Redland), Lachie Weller (Broadbeach/Southport), Tom Fields (Labrador) and Jordon Bourke (Morningside).

Redland will rightfully suggest that over the next year or two the balance could swing more towards Victoria Point after they had six players drafted last year – Keays, Smith, Sam Michael (Essendon), Paul Hunter (Adelaide), Matthew Uebergang (Fremantle) and Wylie Buzza (Geelong).

But right now the Aspley/Blair credentials are undeniable.

Corey Wagner’s selection is part two of a phenomenal family story in which older brother Josh has made a wonderful success of his first season at Melbourne after being claimed by the Demons in the Rookie Draft. He debuted in Round 3 and has played 10 games in a row.

Corey, 19, has had to live with the mixed emotions of seeing Josh, who will be 22 next year, drafted after him but get his chance before him.

A senior emergency for North in Round 9 and Round 12, he would have been delighted to see Josh get a belated chance after he was overlooked four years in a row in the National Draft but frustrated to have been made to wait himself.

He’ll wait no more. And watching closely, perhaps with similarly mixed emotions, will be the recruiting brainstrust at the Lions.

Why? Because Corey Wagner will forever be a “what if?” story for the Lions.

A product of the same Brisbane Academy group as Hipwood and Keays, Wagner was potentially bound for the Gabba via the 2015 National Draft until North bid for him with selection #43.

The Lions had the option to match the bid and keep him but chose not to. Effectively, they preferred Rhys Mathieson, who they had taken at #39.

So, while Queensland element of the Lions will be hoping Wagner goes well, there might be a “not too well” rider on it among some.

Wagner, who played three senior games at Aspley in 2014-15, will fulfil his AFL dream after being a star alongside Hipwood and Keays at Queensland U18 level last year.

A string of quality performances for the side coached by Adrian Fletcher elevated his standing within the recruiting fraternity from possible rookie status pre-season to third round pick in November.

Immediately after the draft North recruiting boss Bryce Lewis described Wagner as “a versatile ball-winner who’s creative, is also a strong runner and shows a bit of toe exiting the contests. He’s a mid/forward but can also play some roles potentially down back”.

As much as it would have been easy for Wagner to stay at home and play at the Lions, and he would happily have done so if it turned out that way, he has always thinking otherwise.

“I really wanted to move, I wanted to come to Melbourne … and start something new,” he told the North website. “Brisbane had pick 39 and I thought my name could get called … and then North came up and they picked me, and I was ecstatic.”

Wagner detailed for the North website the exact moment he learned from coach Brad Scott on Wednesday of his selection as the first 2015 draftee to break into the side which sits on top of the AFL ladder.

“I was in the change-rooms with all the boys – Ziebs (Jack Ziebell), Tippo (Joel Tippett) was there, Froggy (Trent Dumont) was there,” he explained.

But the coach didn’t make it easy on the small forward. “Scotty came in and said ‘do you reckon he could play?’ A couple said no, a couple said yes,” Wagner joked. “Then he (Scott) shook my hand and said ‘you’ll make your debut this week’.”

Wagner, held out of North’s VFL side at Werribee last weekend ahead of a short week leading into Friday night’s clash with Hawthorn, admitted he had “a fair idea” he was in the selection mix this week but wasn’t getting his hopes up.

“Stoked. I was really keen. I can’t wait for it to happen,” he said. ““A couple of the boys I think knew before I did. All of the younger boys like Dec (Mountford) and those guys jumped on me and gave me a massive hug. It got me really excited for it.”

Wagner said he’ll look to take the same mentality into Friday night’s game as he has across his VFL performances this year.

“I’m not going to change anything I’ve been doing. I’m just going to keep the pressure and the tackles up and hopefully everything else works out. I’ll listen to ‘Boom’ (Brent Harvey), do what I’m told and hopefully he can keep me in there for a couple of weeks.”

The Wagners are the eighth set of Queensland brothers to play AFL football. They follow David and Stephen Wearne, Che, David and Donald Cockatoo-Collins, Clark and Aaron Keating, Michael and Brett Voss, Dayne and Claye Beams, Rhys and Alik Magin, and Kurt and Joel Tippett.

Wagner will become the 160th Queenslander to play AFL football on Friday night, and will be followed by Hipwood at #161 on Saturday.

Wagner and Hipwood will take to seven the number of Queensland debutants this year behind Josh Wagner, Josh Smith, Aliir, Keays and Joyce, and to 33 the total number of Queenslanders to play in the AFL this year.

In other Queensland news to emerge from selection Thursday night for the abbreviated Round 13:-

  • Claye Beams, a Brisbane emergency for the last three weeks, will return against West Coast, but Tom Bell (knee) and Harris Andrews (groin) will miss through injury.
  • Sam Reid, who was 1072 days between his 24th AFL game and his 25th AFL game, has had to wait only seven more days for his 26th game after he held his spot for the GWS Giants’ clash with Essendon Sunday.

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