SKILLS among junior footballers are on the rise within the Horsham District and Wimmera leagues.
AFL Wimmera Mallee development manager Jason Muldoon said there had been a noticeable, overall improvement in junior football in the region throughout the past five years.
Mr Muldoon said there had always been a pathway for young talented footballers, such as the Greater Western Victoria Rebels and the Wimmera Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy.
“The improvement really is at the community club level. I think clubs have placed a much greater emphasis on developing the players within their club,” he said.
“There has been a focus on that group, which may not be your best players but are mid-range players. Clubs have had the focus to develop and retain those players at their clubs.”
Mr Muldoon said there was a trend that juniors would stay on to play senior football for their clubs.
“The talented players are going to be talented no matter what, but clubs are developing that relationship and culture with their juniors now,” he said.
Mr Muldoon said there had been an influx of young footballers making senior debuts across the region in 2018. He said clubs have been known to debut their junior footballers early but it has increased recently.
“Clubs are willing to give these kids a go, when they think they’re ready, in senior football – which is good for development,” he said.
“If the kid is playing okay, they will keep playing them. But they are very mindful players can get overwhelmed and need a rest after say, three games.
“It’s a huge reason why we get kids drafted into the AFL.”
Mr Muldoon said junior footballers were getting exposure and experience at a higher level at a younger age.
He said, with the population in the region, the Wimmera has produced a large amount of footballers who have gone on to play AFL.
“It’s phenomenal. It’s recognised as a hot-spot in the state, per capita, with the amount of kids who go onto the AFL,” Mr Muldoon said.
The region had only missed four drafts since 2007 and the clubs in the region produced the likes of Tom McDonald, Seb Ross, Jake Lloyd and Jarrod Berry.
Mr Muldoon said the current crop of youngsters coming through were also showing great potential.
“They have the tools that could possibly take them to an AFL career. In saying that, an AFL career is a better prospect now than what it was 10 years ago,” he said.
“The average wage is about $300,000 a year, for an average player.
“All of a sudden, if you have those tools that might take you to that next level it is a really attractive career, and you are doing what you love.”
- Junior carnival wrap – P27.