Bryce Retzlaff and and Joey Daye are set to become the eighth and ninth Queensland AFL debutants this year and the 127th and 128th Queenslanders to play at the elite level.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Bryce Retzlaff and and Joey Daye are set to become the eighth and ninth Queensland AFL debutants this year and the 127th and 128th Queenslanders to play at the elite level.

Retzlaff, a Labrador junior still 53 days short of his 20th birthday, was named tonight in the Brisbane Lions side for Saturday night’s historic Q-Clash against the Gold Coast Suns.

And no sooner had his spot been confirmed than the Suns picked 21-year-old Daye, a former Kedron junior and senior player with the Zillmere Eagles.

Retzlaff (pictured below left) will get his chance after a standout 2010 season with the Lions Reserves in the QAFL State League, when he was chosen in the QAFL Team of the Year, and a hot start to the 2011 NEAFL campaign.

Daye (pictured above left) has been rewarded for his sheer persistence, having been overlooked in the AFL National Draft of 2007, 2008 and 2009 before finally being picked up by the Suns last November.

Retzlaff will follow former Labrador clubmate Claye Beams and ex-Southport  ruckman Broc McCauley as the Lions’ third Queensland debutant in the first seven rounds of the season.

Daye will follow fellow Queenslanders Zac Smith, Charlie Dixon, Marc Lock, Alik Magin and rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt in making their AFL debut with the Suns.

Retzlaff will be a huge draft bonus for the Lions if he can make a substantial contribution to a Brisbane forward line that has struggled massively in the absence of injured captain Jonathan Brown.

He had played just six senior QAFL games with Labrador when he was a surprise choice at No.84 in the 2009 AFL National Draft. And he wasn’t even playing football 12 months earlier.

Sporting the same tattoo ‘sleeve’ as Beams, Retzlaff had played as a 195cm ruckman with Labrador but was always going to be better suited long-term as a lead-up forward once he’d committed to football.

A good junior footballer at Mudgeeraba, he had quit the game midway through his U16 year in 2007, and after playing cricket last year only returned to football in 2009.

He was invited to the AFL’s State Screening session in Melbourne prior to the AFL National Draft but did not attend due to injury.

There were plenty of people asking ‘Bryce Who?” when he was taken with the third-last ‘live’ pick at No.84 ahead of Simon Buckley, who went from Melbourne to Collingwood at No.85, and Matt Maguire, who went from St.Kilda to Brisbane at No.91.

So much was he unknown in draft circles that prior to the draft he wasn’t among more than 200 players included on a pre-draft data base by the AFL.

While Retzlaff enjoyed a rapid climb up the football tree, Daye’s draft selection by the Suns ended a long, hard wait for the AIS/AFL Academy squad member to finally crack it for a spot in the AFL system.

He had been a member of the 2006 AFL/AIS Academy squad alongside fellow Queenslanders Brendan Whitecross and Sam Reid, and was widely tipped alongside Whitecross, now at Hawthorn, and Reid, now at the Western Bulldogs, to be snapped up by an AFL club.

It was a star-studded Academy group, including subsequent AFL players Daniel Rich and Aaron Cornelius (Brisbane), Lachlan Henderson (Brisbane/Carlton), Chris Yarran (Carlton), Trent Cotchin and Tyrone Vickery (Richmond), Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide), Jack Grimes, Cale Morton and Adam Maric (Melbourne), Nic Naitanui, Brad Ebert and Tom Swift (West Coast), Hamish Hartlett (Port Adelaide) and Pat Veszpremi (Sydney/Carlton), And Daye had more than held his own in this illustrious company.

But on draft day he missed out. There wasn’t even the consolation of a rookie list spot.

The oldest of three boys, Daye was born in Moe, Victoria, to a Burmese father (John) and an Australian mother (Diane). He spent his early years in Melbourne before moving to Brisbane aged four in 1994, attending Kallangur State School and the AFL School of Excellence at Sandgate High.

A Strathpine junior, he had a short stint at Kedron before joining the Zillmere Eagles in 2007 to represent Queensland at U18 level and play in the Eagles’ QAFL Reserves premiership side.

His 2008 campaign to reignite his AFL dream was cut short by osteitis pubis, which restricted him to two senior games at Zillmere and four games with the Queensland U18 side.

His ’08 season was over in June and it was a huge relief when in October ‘08 he was offered the opportunity to train with the Gold Coast as they started putting together a playing list ahead of their 2011 entry to the AFL.

He played 19 of a possible 23 games for the Gold Coast in their joint TAC Cup / Queensland U18 campaign of 2009, and after end-of-season surgery to finally rectify hip/groin problems a further chance followed with the Gold Coast’s VFL side in 2010.

He was among the Gold Coast’s most consistent players last year, earning lavish praise from the Gold Coast coaching staff for the way he went about all aspects of his football, and was finally rewarded with an AFL contract.

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