THE 2015 NAB AFL Under-16 Championships is likely to be the most highly scrutinized in its history given the new AFL draft rules surrounding bidding for father-son and academy players, says AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan.
The carnival gets under way on the Gold Coast on Saturday morning with a double-header at Metricon Stadium. Western Australia will face Vic Country before South Australia plays Vic Metro.
Each of the eight teams will play three matches over the week in their respective divisions while two exhibition games will be held between an indigenous under-15 team, the Flying Boomerangs, and a World XVIII comprised of multicultural players from around Australia.
Sheehan said that with future draft picks coming into the equation for clubs following the revised draft rules surrounding bidding for father-son and academy players, all 18 clubs would watch these championships with greater interest than ever before.
“You’ll find that every club will be here for that reason,” Sheehan told AFL.com.au.
“These boys are obviously a couple of years away but we’ve already got the creep of clubs being able to look at future draft picks because of the rules around the academy and the father-son bidding.
“So all clubs will be here trying to get a handle on the best 200 boys in the nation. It’s going to be vital work going forward that they’re able to assess them right from this very early age.
“Because a lot of things can happen in your 17th and 18th years. Injury can occur and you’ll have to go back to the time you did see them.”
South Australia’s Jackson Edwards, son of Adelaide Crows premiership player Tyson Edwards, is just one of a number of father-son and academy prospects participating in the carnival.
Sheehan said identifying players at such a young age is a really tough challenge. He is a part of the selection panel for the NAB AFL Academy program and cited St Kilda star Nick Riewoldt as a player they overlooked at this age bracket.
“We can remember Nick Riewoldt at this particular age, he was 186cm and 68kg when he started out playing for Queensland,” Sheehan said.
“We nearly picked him. We looked very closely at him but we didn’t quite go with him and by the next year he’d grown five centimetres, put on about eight kilos and as a 17-year-old looked a star playing centre half-back for Queensland and by the following year he was number one in the draft, the best young kid in Australia. So we just missed him. We did see some promising attributes but he was very small and light.”
Sheehan said he was excited by what he might see out of the NSW/ACT and Queensland teams given the work that has been done through the AFL academies in those regions in recent years.
Recruiters will also keep an eye on the two exhibition games between the Boomerangs and the World XVIII.
“The Flying Boomerangs has been a very successful program,” Sheehan said.
“It’s an education and development program for young leaders in the indigenous area and it’s had great success over the years with the likes of Stevie Motlop, those sorts of boys have come through it.
“They come in as under-15 boys and next year they focus on playing for their state at under-16 level.
“The World team, that’s made up of multicultural kids from around Australia. Many of those are just getting connected to the game, giving them a real feel for the pathway ahead of them if they really want to pursue football and the dream of playing in the AFL.
“So we’ll watch them with great interest as well.”
by Alex Malcolm for afl.com.au
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