Jake McQueen set to play VFL for Essendon in 2018

CHANCE: Former Nhill junior footballer Jake McQueen spent 2017 playing for the North Ballarat Rebels and East Point. Picture: LUKA KAUZLARIC
CHANCE: Former Nhill junior footballer Jake McQueen spent 2017 playing for the North Ballarat Rebels and East Point. Picture: LUKA KAUZLARIC

JAKE McQueen was granted a lifeline in the Victorian Football League last week after he was included in Essendon’s squad.

The former Nhill Tigers junior played 11 games for the North Ballarat Roosters in 2017 but was left without a club after the Roosters’ VFL license was not renewed at the end of the season.

McQueen said when he was invited to do pre-season with Essendon he was unsure of what to expect.

“There was a lot of good talent down there and I couldn’t tell you how many blokes there were at the start of training,” he said.

“I didn’t really expect to get a contract at all.”

He was told on Monday last week that he was going to be offered a place on the squad and had signed the contract by Wednesday.

The 19-year-old was one of 24 players to be included in the squad when it was announced on Saturday.

“I was a bit nervous going down at the start of pre-season because I didn’t know anyone except from one other North Ballarat bloke,” McQueen said.

“It definitely helped having Joe there as well because the three of us gelled pretty well together, it made training a hell of a lot easier.”

McQueen was listed as a small forward and wing player by Essendon.

He said he expected to play predominantly a high-forward role for the team.

“That’s the feedback I have been getting from the coaches and that’s what I’ve been playing most of my career,” he said.

“The first goal was just to get a contract and now I’m still just aiming small to try and get a game in order to hopefully hold my spot.

“Eventually I want to be playing every round, but I suspect that will be a few seasons down the track so I just want to put my best foot forward.”

McQueen split his time between East Point in the Ballarat Football League and the Roosters during his first full season away from Nhill in 2017.

“Training and playing with the Roosters definitely helped my development,” he said.

“East Point certainly helped me along as as well and were really good even though I didn’t get to play a lot of games there.”

Despite his football taking him away from Nhill he said he still considered the town and club home.

“I was just talking about that the other day,” he said.

“I will certainly come back to the Tigers at some stage but I’m not sure when.

“I want to give this VFL thing a real crack while I can by playing the best football I possibly can and then when I’m ready I’ll find my way back.”

Essendon will open its VFL season against Frankston on Saturday April 7.