RISING Wimmera football stars Jarrod Berry and Darcy Tucker have been named in the AFL Academy's two squads for 2014-15.
Tucker has risen from the academy's level one squad in the past year to be selected for the more advanced level two squad.
Only 35 players are picked for the top-age level two squad and 25 for bottom-age level one.
The level two squad represents some of the top junior prospects who will be eligible for the 2015 AFL Draft.
Tucker was one of 11 Vic Country players to be selected for the level two program, the most of any state representative team.
Berry has been picked for the level one squad along with three other Vic Country players.
The academy serves as in introduction to AFL football for some of the top junior prospects.
It was previously run as a joint initiative between the Australian Institute of Sport and the AFL, but the AIS withdrew from the program this year.
This year's level two program will include a trip to the United States and visits to two AFL clubs.
Level one players will have a four-day camp in New Zealand and possibly play in a curtain-raiser to the AFL's New Zealand Anzac Day match.
Tucker and Berry both hail from the Horsham Saints and have been part of the North Ballarat Rebels program in the past two years.
Rebels talent manager Phil Partington said it was a great result for both players, who are recovering from injuries.
Tucker recently had ankle surgery and Berry is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
"Darcy made level one last year, and from his performances at TAC Cup and his All-Australian selection at the under-18 championships, he was basically an automatic selection to go through again," Partington said.
"He'll gain a lot more knowledge about what it takes to be an AFL player because level two is a more complex program than level one, and it gives him an opportunity to be the best he can be."
Berry said he was excited about the chance to be part of the academy.
"I was very surprised to be picked, but it was a good surprise," he said.
"Darcy and I are pretty good mates and he helps me out, so it will be good having him to talk to about what he did last year.
"I'm expecting a lot of commitment and professionalism, and I just want to take the opportunity to train at an elite level and improve myself."
Partington said selection for the academy was no indicator of success at AFL level.
"It certainly doesn't guarantee them a draft spot," he said. "There are plenty of examples of academy players who have been overlooked in the draft, but it does gives them the opportunity to be the best they can be on and off the ground."
Horsham Saints president Roger Sordello said the club was ecstatic to have two of its players picked for the academy.
"It's fantastic and just desserts for the hard work they have put in," he said.
"Between Rebels-listed guys and those two, our juniors have never been stronger.
"I think Rory Taggert being drafted a few years ago was a real inspiration for some of our kids and helped them realise that if they do all the right things, they can get that sort of result."