Thursday 10 March 2011

The reigning QAFL NAB Rising Star Zephi Skinner is creating waves in the AFL scene already.

Recruited by the Western Bulldogs in the November National Draft, Skinner impressed TV commentators with his skills in the opening round of the NAB Cup lighning carnival.

He booted four goals in a practice match in the deep south of WA last weekend, and on a remarkable preparation.

The instant cult-figure’s preparation for the Western Bulldogs’ practice match against Fremantle was more extraordinary than the freakish leaps and long bombs, according to The Herald Sun.

Skinner spent eight days in the lead up to the game at the Kimberley community of Noonkanbah, near Fitzroy Crossing.

As his teammates cruised to Melbourne airport on Friday morning to ready themselves for the Dockers hitout, Skinner was on a dirt road heading from his former home to Broome.

After allowing the former NT Thunder star to attend a funeral, the Bulldogs sent development head Chris Maple to north Western Australia on Thursday to make contact with the recruit’s family and friends and ensure he arrived in Bunbury on time.

Maple and Skinner left Noonkanbah at 6.15am on Friday in hired a four-wheel drive for the four-hour trip to Broome Airport.

“Probably an hour and a half of the trip was just on dirt, including water crossings,” Maple said. “They’ve got a lot of cattle up there in the community, which was a challenge.

“Suddenly, you’ve got a cow running in front of your car, which slowed us. At one river crossing we had a few freshwater crocs floating in the river near us. Finally, we got on the main road back to Broome.”

Maple and Skinner boarded a plane in Broome for the flight to Perth Airport, then jumped in a car with football manager James Fantasia for the two-hour car trip south to Bunbury.

Finally, Skinner arrived in Bunbury at 6.30pm.

“All up, we travelled about 12 hours,” Maple said.

Mindful of the travel factor, the Dogs played Skinner for only 55 per cent of game time, but were astounded by his impact with four goals.

The 21-year-old, who shot to prominence with the NT Thunder last year, was drafted at No 88 by the Bulldogs.

Not having seen the standard of the QAFL, The Herald Sun felt it was a speculative pick, but Skinner looks capable of breaking into the senior team this year, it said.

The newspaper likened the 189cm Skinner to a tall like Liam Jurrah, with a hard edge who thrives on tackling.

“Zeph is exciting in that he’s quick, he wants to put defensive pressure on, he’s a really good kick and he kicks both feet as good as the other one,” Maple said.

“His vertical jump is unbelievable. He can stand on his two feet and do a backlip straight on to his feet.

“He is a real excitement machine. We’ve got to build his aerobic fitness a bit more, but who knows what he can do.”

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