Mayne young gun, Henry Leong, looks set for a breakthrough season.
Henry Leong loves footy.
So much so that the 16 year old heads down to Mayne Tigers training four nights a week, running with the under-18s and the seniors.
Leong won’t be draft-age until 2014, but he has already played two senior games for Mayne and senior coach Mitch Ferguson says he will be adding plenty more to that number this season.
Leong has always played at the Tigers, starting with Mayne’s junior affiliate, Everton, in the under-eights and he enjoys his footy just as much now as he did then.
Everton coaching director and former Brisbane Bear Danny Craven has coached Leong on and off through his footy career, says Leong’s passion for the game is clear to see.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a fanatical trainer but he just loves footy so much that he wants to be training all the time.”
The Brisbane Lions’ success of the early 2000s attracted Leong to the game, but with a naturally strong build and talent for the game, it is clear to see that he and footy are a pretty good match.
While plenty of young footballers struggle to bulk up, Leong says he has never had never had that problem.
“You see some real twigs out there. I’ve always been kind of bigger bodied,” he says.
“I’ve really worked on my fitness this pre-season so that I can run with [senior opponents] in a game.”
Craven says he rates Leong as one of the state’s top young players.
“He’s definitely capable of playing state footy. He hasn’t quite broken through largely because his fitness has not been where it needs to be,” Craven says.
“He’s worked on that and now he’s in great condition for season 2013.”
“In my opinion, he’s in the top 20 players in Queensland.”
Craven said Leong “inherited” the Everton Under-16s captaincy last year as the most experienced player in the side.
But the added responsibility did not bother Leong, who delivered a best on ground performance in the Division Two grand final despite being on the end of a 37-point loss.
Craven says Leong is mature for such a young player, coaching the under-12s at Everton this season.
“He’s a well-rounded kid. He’s a credit to his family and the junior club,” he says.
“He’s working on his leadership and his communication and that’s indicated by his coaching involvement.”
In the lead up to the 2013 season, Mayne senior coach Mitch Ferguson described Leong as a “16 year old in a 25 year old body.”
“He’s a big, strapping lad. He can keep up with the play with the way he’s built,” Ferguson said.
“He’s a hell of a kid. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Playing off the half back flank, Leong models his game on players including Richmond’s Brett Deledio and West Coast Eagle Beau Waters.
Leong’s dream is to play in an ANZAC match at the MCG, but right now he just wants to cement his spot in Mayne’s senior side and take advantage of the opportunity to play with older guys.
He says his first foray into senior footy against Sandgate last season was a memorable experience.
“The guys really embraced me,” he said.
“It was lots of fun, I don’t think I’ll forget it, it was amazing.”
Craven believes that Leong is well on his way to a strong footy future.
“He’s got a promising future in footy,” he said.
“He’s got his head screwed on and that’s half the battle for a lot of young guys now.”