Queensland U18 player, Liam Dawson, gives us his insights into the state program.
Footy has been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Both of my parents are big footy fans and they had me dressed in Collingwood gear from when I was a baby.
Mum is originally from England and she used to watch it over there and when she moved to Australia, she umpired and got the Redcliffe women’s team going, so footy was always my sport.
I played all my juniors at Redcliffe, before joining Aspley in 16s and I played my first senior match with the Hornets last year, at 17.
Last year was a big learning curve for me and playing at U18 nationals for the first time was a great chance for me to see where I stack up against some of the best players in the country.
It was a bit difficult at first, playing against some of the bigger bodies, but I got used to it and it ended up being a great way to better my football, and I think it set me up well for this year.
After the champs, I was picked for the AIS-AFL squad, and I think that has really fast-tracked my football, learning off guys like Glen Jackovich, Matty Lloyd and Brad Johnson, as well as taking in what players from other states are doing as well.
That program gave me and Matt Hammelmann the chance to train with the Brisbane Lions over summer, which was an awesome insight into the life of AFL footballers.
Being a backline player, I learned a lot off Daniel Merrett, Joel Patfull and Justin Clarke, and being able to go to all their meetings and use their facilities really made me feel like a part of the club.
The Lions Academy also helped to give us another two weeks at the Lions, and I can thank them for so much of my football development.
Guys like Lions Academy coaches Scott Borlace and Luke Curran have been really good for me and I’ve really looked to them to build on my football.
Outside of football, my high school teacher, Howie Roberts, was a really big influence for me and I used to talk to him about footy and life and all of those guys helped me hugely last year.
I’m really looking to take on some more leadership in the Queensland side this year, and give some of the younger players the support that players like Aden Rutledge and Isaac Conway gave me during the program last year.
This year is going to be really exciting ,with more TAC Cup games for Queensland, rather than playing the Div 1 sides, which will give us a good chance to test ourselves.
There’s plenty to look forward to, starting with this month’s AIS-AFL Europe tour, as well as the possibility of playing on the MCG, the Gabba and Etihad this year.
I’m still a footy fanatic now, and I always try and watch an AFL match the night before I play, which has become easier since we just got Fox Footy, so I can watch games and shows like AFL 360 during the week.
The game’s never too far from my mind but I try to get away from it when I can, heading to the beach with my family, chilling with my girlfriend, and throwing the arm over at the cricket nets with my friends sometimes during summer.
I can’t really get enough of footy – I love the game, training, playing with my mates and I’m just always looking to keep improving.