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Academy players get call-up for Allies

QBE Sydney Swans Academy player Hamish Ellem in action for the Swans NEAFL side.

Six players from the QBE Sydney Swans Academy’s U16 and U17 squads have been selected in the first round of the new-look national AFL Academy program. 

Swans Academy general manager, Chris Smith, said he was pleased to have such a healthy representation of players in the 2019 AFL Allies Academy.

The Swans Academy players chosen to train under Allies coach, former Brisbane Lions premiership player Luke Power, are: Jackson Barling, Hamish Ellem, Luke Parks and Josh Rayner from this year’s U17 squad, and Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell from the U16 squad.

It’s a great reward for Ellem, 17, a key forward, who moved to Sydney from Grafton in northern NSW earlier this year to further his prospects.

The other five boys are Sydney locals. Barling is from the Willoughby/Mosman club; Parks plays club footy for North Shore, as does Rayner. Gulden is from Maroubra and Campbell plays for Westbrook – both are exciting young talents who made the national AFL U16 team this year.

“We’re happy for those players chosen by the AFL for the Allies program as they have all performed well during representative games for the Swans Academy and for NSW in 2018 and are very deserving,” Smith said.

“However it’s also worth noting that an extra 20 boys will be added to the Allies squad after next year’s representative games in April and May, and we expect to have several more Swans Academy players selected then.’’

The Swans Academy players will join with players from the GWS Giants, Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions Academies, as well as NT and Tasmania in an initial 30-member Allies squad, which is part of a revamped national structure for elite under-age players.

The new structure, which replaces the previous national AFL Academy, allows more players to be involved in the high-level program.

Under the old system only 50 players were included from across the country, but there will now be AFL hubs in five talent regions – Vic Country, Vic Metro, South Australia, Western Australia and Allies – with a total of 150 players involved.

Players in the squads are eligible for next year's draft or for the 2020 draft.

The national under-age representative match schedule has also been re-structured which will allow players from the Swans Academy more opportunities to compete against players from Victoria.

In 2019 the U18 Swans Academy squad will play against elite Victorian U18 teams the Sandringham Dragons, Geelong Falcons and Murray Bushrangers, as well as Tasmania and the GWS Giants Academy.

“We believe all these changes will give our Swans Academy boys more chances to show their talents on a national stage in front of AFL recruiters,’’ Smith said.

However he also emphasised that Academy players should not get too focused on their prospects of being drafted to an AFL club.

“We have found that boys who try to relax, keep things in perspective and focus on enjoying the experience along the way - rather than worrying about any long-term outcome - are those who perform best,’’ Smith said.

“We don’t want parents or players to put too much pressure on themselves. Making the Allies is a great achievement and we want our boys to relish the experience and take something positive from every game they play, whether it’s good or bad.’’