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Isaiah takes pride in learning from the best

Jenny McAsey  December 9, 2017 1:14 PM

Isaiah Olsen in action for the QBE Sydney Swans Academy.

Isaiah Olsen in action for the QBE Sydney Swans Academy.

Isaiah Olsen had a difficult decision to make this year.

After playing in the NSW All Schools Touch competition, he was in demand.

National Rugby League club, Newcastle Knights, was on his doorstep, and Isaiah, 15, was offered a place in the Knights U16 development squad.

It was tempting, but he ultimately turned it down for an offer from the QBE Sydney Swans Academy he believes suits him better.

“The Academy also wanted me to join in their program so it was a really big decision. I enjoy both sports but I think the opportunity is better for me in AFL, so it was the right decision for me,’’ says Isaiah.

“It’s going to work better for me in the long run, and I appreciate the work the Swans Academy has put in. They’ve shown they really want me to be there.’’

Isaiah has just completed the Academy’s summer benchmark program, where players in the U16 to U18 age groups were put through five weeks of tough training.

He didn’t play AFL this year but he’s determined to improve his fitness and understanding of the game ahead of 2018, when he’ll play with the Cardiff Hawks.

“It’s a good cross-over for me from league to AFL. I love the running in AFL and I don’t mind getting in-and-under. I like to win the ball and then run with it,’’ says Isaiah, who plays in the midfield and forward line.

The talented teenager has played rugby league since he was four years old, and didn’t try junior AFL until he was in Year 6 at school.

His sports teacher suggested he trial for the Hunter region schools representative side to play in the NSW AFL primary schools carnival.

Having never played before, he made the Hunter rep side, and then at the end of the carnival his natural talent was recognised with selection in the NSW U12 team (the Blue Pups) to play in the annual national schools championships.

“Making the Blue Pups was one of the best experiences of my life,’’ recalls Isaiah. “During that tournament I got to watch the Swans and saw my idol Goodesy (Adam Goodes) play, so that was amazing.’’

Isaiah has since been involved in several camps for indigenous boys organised by Goodes and his GO Foundation.

“We do cultural sessions and fitness testing and I was selected in an indigenous side. I love the way Goodesy played, and I love how he showed his Aboriginal heritage,’’ says Isaiah.

Isaiah is proud of his own Aboriginal heritage, which he has learned about from his father and grandfather. His family are Kamilaroi people from the Armidale region of NSW.

Academy general manager Chris Smith is pleased to have Isaiah back in the program.

“Isaiah spent some time in the Academy as younger player and always showed plenty of promise but we knew he was juggling numerous other sports,’’ Smith says.

“We aim to be a flexible program and we understand the benefits of boys playing numerous sports during their adolescence.

“However, as players reach our older age groups, and given their school commitments take a more serious turn, talented boys need to prioritise their sporting commitments.

“We were always keen to have Isaiah involved in our program as we truly believe he has many of the attributes we’re seeking in our prospects,’’ Smith said.