SEBASTIAN ROSS, HORSHAM
For Jake Lloyd's profile, scroll down...
HORSHAM'S Sebastian Ross knew he needed to increase his aerobic capacity if he was to catch the attention of AFL recruiters.
The North Ballarat Rebels midfielder worked tirelessly on his fitness throughout the 2011 TAC Cup season, culminating in an invitation to the AFL Draft Combine and his draft stocks soaring.
Considered by AFL national talent scout Kevin Sheehan as a top 30 prospect, Ross said he'd dug deep to ensure he gave himself every chance of being drafted.
"Throughout the year I did boxing sessions and extra sessions and in the lead-up to the draft camp we got pretty strict on the training regime and I tried to get as fit as I could," Ross said.
"I was happy with my result in the beep test, which was 14.8."
Ross has been a constant in the Rebels' midfield since he made his debut as a bottom-age player in 2010.
It was this season - his second at North Ballarat - where Ross made his mark.
He was selected in the Rebels' leadership group and earned Vic Country selection, playing with and against some of the nation's most talented teenage players in the AFL Under-18 National Championships.
"I was pretty happy with anything in the national championships because I thought I was pretty lucky to get a gig," Ross said.
"I wasn't outstanding but I guess I contributed.
"It's the highest possible level you can play at for your age group so I guess you're playing against the best in Australia.
"You learn what it takes to be as good as them."
Ross also learns from the likes of Richmond's Dustin Martin, Western Bulldogs captain Matthew Boyd and Essendon skipper Jobe Watson, who is his cousin.
"I like the way they can win the contested footy, and their ability to get rid of it and make the right decisions," he said.
The ball winner said he'd also learned a great deal at grassroots level.
He said North Ballarat and Horsham, where he played in an under-17 premiership, instilled a sense of discipline and hunger into his approach to football.
"That is credit to blokes like Rob Dumesny and Stuey Farr down at the club who run a pretty good junior program," Ross said.
"As you'll see half the side in the Demons premiership this year played with the club all through juniors. They just pride themselves on that really.
"I guess that is the same thing with the Rebels and the program Geoff Burdett runs. It is all about development and that's why they get such good results out of the kids."
Ross is the nephew of former Dimboola player and Essendon great Tim Watson.
Ross, a Hawthorn supporter with a soft spot for the Bombers, said he'd spoken to Essendon officials at the draft combine.
The Bombers were one of a handful of clubs which spoke to the Ballarat Clarendon College student.
"I have been focusing on school because you can't put your eggs in one basket and hope you get drafted, you have to have a back-up plan," Ross said.
"I'll have a gap year and work and hopefully go to uni in Geelong and study construction management."
The level-headed Ross, though, would love nothing more than to make it to the AFL.
"Footy has been a part of my life all my life. I guess it's sort of like family," he said.
"It means the world. There are plenty of people out there who don't get the chance to do things they love.
"I guess I'm pretty grateful I get to do a thing I love."
JAKE LLOYD, HORSHAM
HORSHAM’S Jake Lloyd could join the growing number of former basketballers making their way onto AFL lists.
But Lloyd isn’t a former centre to be groomed into an athletic ruckman or strong-marking forward, he’s a creative midfielder.
At 180 centimetres, Lloyd is a ball winner with an eye for a goal.
He’s hoping to join an AFL club after one season with TAC Cup club North Ballarat Rebels.
Lloyd juggled basketball and football commitments until this season when it became too difficult, particularly with the added pressure of VCE.
He decided on football and had a strong debut season
with the Rebels, named the club’s joint best first-year player and earning a call up to AFL State Combine.
Lloyd, an established player in Horsham’s senior team, said the TAC Cup was a strong competition.
“It was a bit different to what I expected for a start but I enjoyed it,” Lloyd said.
“Past years I had been playing against adults so I was back playing against kids in the under-18 group. It was a lot faster too.”
The St Brigid’s College student said his basketball background had proved benefi cial.
“I reckon it has, especially with my hand-eye co-ordination,” Lloyd said. “I represented Vic
Country at under-15 and under-18 level and under 15, 16, 17 and 18 levels.
“I played Hornets for a couple of years. I sat on the bench for a while because I was a kid but I played the last couple of minutes of games.
“Steve Bruce and Owen Hughan, they brought me up as a young fella in basketball and gave me a chance to play a few games.”
In football, Lloyd said he’d also been lucky to have played under Horsham coach Stuart Farr.
At 18, Lloyd’s a three-time senior premiership player with the Demons.
“Stuey Farr gave me a pretty good chance so I am pretty thankful of him to put me up there and give me flags,” he said.
“With Geoff Burdett too at the Wimmera program, what he does puts you in good stead for pre-season, plus all Stuey’s work. He’s great with all his drills and that sort of stuff.
“He makes sure everyone is fit and ready.”
Fitness is one of Lloyd’s strong points.
His father Tony runs a gym on the family property, giving Lloyd a luxury many players aren’t afforded.
At the state combine, Lloyd’s aerobic capacity was on show.
“It was a big day down there. It was a good experience,” he said.
“I got 27 out of 30 in the kicking test which was second overall out of everyone and in the beep test I ran a 15.5 which I was very happy with.”
Lloyd, a Geelong supporter who moulds his game on Cats star Jimmy Bartel and Collingwood midfielder Scott Pendlebury, knows there are aspects of his game he needs to improve, and areas where he excels can also become stronger.
“Leadership as a top age player, I need to get better in that area. But I think I need to get better in all areas and keep building myself as up as a player,” he said.