When the Under 12 Queensland Country team took to the field following the Queensland School Sports Under 12 State Championships, there was a special first timer in the line up.
As Isaac Krueger pulled on the maroon and white jumper, he became the first South West Region player to be selected in the Queensland Country team, in their game against the Sunshine Coast regional team.
Let’s go back through time and take it from the top though, because these selections don’t happen over night.
Krueger’s passion for footy started at his first AFL game between the Brisbane Lions and the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba. Since that moment, it’s been “all I want to do.”
That love of the game took him to the Jimboomba Redbacks in 2012, where he started in the under 8’s, before progressing to the under 10’s the following year as a bottom age player.
Now this is where the story gets really interesting.
Three years ago, his father Phillip’s job took the family to Roma to live. Now Roma and Australian Rules are definitely not two words usually linked in a sentence. It’s a rugby league heartland.
It meant there weren’t too many avenues to train or play. While he still loved his footy, the options were limited.
Playing rugby league wasn’t something that initially interested Krueger; that was until a chat with the Brisbane Lions Academy.
“I was not going to play rugby league until I went to a Lions coaching clinic in Brisbane and we went through the Gabba training area. One of the coaches told us that if we can’t play AFL to play anything we can to keep up our fitness and ball skills,” Krueger said.
“I returned to Roma and signed up for rugby league. I struggled to learn the rules and understand the play but by half way through the first season I was considered to be a good player and we won my first premiership.”
Even though he was playing rugby on a weekend, his true passion never waivered.
“I got footy posts for Christmas two years ago and now every chance I get I have them set up in our back yard or down at the sports fields,” he said.
It was the start of 2016 when the he game changed for him.
He heard about the Under 12 region tryouts for the Darling Downs team, and decided to have a crack.
Krueger missed out on selection in the Darling Downs side, but was selected in the Presidents team, made up of players remaining players from metropolitan and central Queensland to play in the Under 12 School Boys State Championships.
That was the defining moment.
“As soon as I knew I was going to the Under 12’s State Championships, I trained a lot. I went for runs with mum and trained in ball skills with my brother Tim and my dad in the back yard,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to get to Brisbane for four of the five training sessions, and had a great coach and teammates.
“The training was a huge step up from anything I was used to, There was a lot higher expectations and we were pushed hard.”
When the Championships rolled around, the Presidents team shocked everyone. They won four games, and drew another, setting a record for the team.
At the dinner after all the regional games were played in the carnival, the Queensland Country team was selected, and Isaac’s name was on that list.
“It was the happiest day of my life, becoming the first South West Region representative to play for Queensland Country,” he said.
While the selection made all the efforts worthwhile, it’s not the reason he plays.
“I love AFL because it’s a great team sport, is fun fast and hard, and enjoyable to play and watch,” he said.
While the carnival may be over, Krueger is already preparing for what he hopes is an even bigger 2017.
By Andrew Wiles