This Saturday, on footballs biggest day, the MCG will have a real Queensland flavour to it.
Eight Queensland State Academy members will walk onto the hallowed turf to play in the NAB AFL All Stars game, which kicks off at 10:00am.
As a curtain raiser to the AFL Grand Final between West Coast and Hawthorn, the Australian Under-17 Team will take on the Allies, consisting of the best players from Queensland, NSW/ACT, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory, all of who are eligible for this years draft.
Corey Wagner, Nick Weller, Mabior Chol, Wylie Buzza, and Eric Hipwood will all represent the Allies, gaining selection from their standout NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
Reuben William and Ben Keays were also both selected, but are unable to partake.
Brad Scheer, Jack Bowes, Jacob Allison, all apart of the NAB AFL Academy – Level Two squad, will fly the Queensland flag in the Australian Under 17 team.
Jack Rolls was also selected, but a knee injury will keep him out.
It won’t just be the players adding a touch of the Sunshine State to the day.
Queensland Academy and High Performance Coach, Adrian Fletcher will coach the Allies, joined by Jim Urquhart as Team Manager.
Alex Whetton, fresh off the NEAFL Grand Final, will also be officiating the game, and Dr Mark Gregg and Miranda O’Hara, the Queensland Academy Doctor and Physiotherapist will also make the trek down with the Allies.
This opportunity, on the biggest stage in front of a packed house is not something that is lost on Allies Coach Adrian Fletcher.
“To play on the MCG on grand final day is unreal. It’s something you might never get to do again, so you’ve got to take the opportunity, and put your best foot forward,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said that the Queensland representation was a byproduct of the successful NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
“It’s really pleasing to see that many Queensland kids selected, but it also comes off the back of the entire team performance in the National Championships. The better you play, the more opportunity you have,” he said.
The biggest challenge he faces will be bringing the group together in a short amount of time.
“Obviously you have to try and bring the team together, who all come from different states, but it’s all about making sure the team performs and making sure the individual performs so they put their best foot forward with their last game in front of the recruiters,” Fletcher said.
“You’ve got to create some team rules to make it all work. We all know that the more you touch it the more you’re seen by the recruiters, but you have to do it as a team, you can’t do it individually.”
The best way forward with a group like he has is to keep things simple.
“We have got to make the game predictable for each other. There are a couple of things we have in place to keep it simple, and keep it predictable, which we will train with the guys on Thursday and Friday,” Fletcher said.
“If you can make it as predictable as you can to a group who isn’t entirely familiar with each other, the better chance you have of playing well.”
The match will be live streamed on www.afl.com.au from 10:00am Saturday.
By Andrew Wiles – @andrewjwiles