A host of QBE Sydney Swans Academy stars bound for the Draft will go under the microscope of recruitment when the AFL Under-18 Championships take off.
Six Swans Academy stars were on Wednesday selected to face South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria Country and Victoria Metro in the five-round national competition.
Young Swans Joey Reinhard, Josh Stern, Zac Cameron, Kyle McKellar, Nick Blakey and Josh Rayner all earned selection for the 50-man squad.
Academy General Manager Chris Smith said the Championships would provide the up-and-comers with a chance to stake their AFL claims.
“It’s about showcasing what you can provide to senior lists around the country,” Smith said.
“Every AFL club has certain things they require, whether that be tall forwards or key defenders or inside midfielders, outside midfielders, small forwards, small defenders.
“It’s about you showcasing your strengths throughout the Under-18 Championships. Recruiters are just looking at those attributes that might be able to suit a particular part of their list.
“They deserve their opportunity. They put together very solid Academy Series and every one of them deserve their spot.
“They now have the challenge of performing well at the Under-18 Championships and they need to continue what they’re doing and ensuring they’re professional and maintaining what they’ve kept to date.”
The six Academy members will join talent from the Gold Coast Suns, Brisbane Lions, GWS Giants, Tasmania and the Northern Territory in an eclectic mix.
The Allies’ campaign will get underway on June 1 in a clash with Victoria Country at Spotless Stadium in Sydney, before they head to Southport on the Gold Coast to take on Victoria Metro.
They will then enjoy a bye and in Round 4 will meet South Australia at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong, before wrapping up the Championships in a match with Western Australia at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
The selection news has come off the back of an impressive U18 Academy Series campaign in which the Swans won four games and lost one.
The Series rounded out on the weekend as Sydney locked up second on the ladder behind Tasmania.
A number of Academy stars eligible for Novembers’ National and Rookie Drafts missed out on Allies selection, but Smith said they all had plenty to look forward to.
“The boys who missed out are in demand from the NEAFL side,” Smith said.
“They can put together a body of work for the rest of the season that can elevate their standing in the eyes of recruiters.
“I understand they’re going to be disappointed but there’s no time to dwell on it. They need to refocus and sharpen up for what is a very important competition, starting with Southport on Saturday who are sitting on top of the table.
“These boys are at our Academy for a reason and there is a huge body of work ahead and a lot of recruiters looking at the NEAFL.”
Smith on the six Swans selected for the Allies
“Blakey’s strength is his versatility. He has great running ability, he can play in the midfield, he can play forward and he has one of the rare attributes which is becoming rarer – that real ability to take those strong contested marks. He has a natural instinct around goal. But he’s a hard runner. For a boy of his size at six-foot-five, six-foot-six, the aerobic capacity he has makes him a very exciting prospect.”
“Reinhard is unique in that he hasn’t defined what position he could fulfil at senior level because he is also just so versatile. He can play in the midfield as a tough inside mid, he can play as a clever forward that can mark above his head and he can also go down as a lockdown defender that can play on talls and smalls. So I think that’s the ingredient that AFL clubs probably like about him – that he’s a bit of a Mr Fix It.”
“He’s a little bit understated. He’s the sort of guy who you might look over pretty quick but when you actually examine his footage he’s a great link player. He’s so clean and he hits targets and he’s just very sure on his feet. He’s one of those guys who’s the glue to the team."
“He’ll pinch-hit in the ruck because he has extraordinary athletic ability. He is a power athlete. He’s got an enormous vertical leap, he’s extremely quick – 2.8 in the 20-metre sprint. But I’d see him as being a likely prospect as a key defender. He’s got a few things that he can work on but his raw potential is off the charts.”
“Kyle is just a very tough, aggressive player. He can play in the midfield but can also play specialist roles down back, he’s got speed and he’s a real competitor.”
“Josh Rayner is another one who’s quite versatile. He can play key forward, key defender and he could also go into the midfield. What he does show in each and every one of those positions is something to get very excited about.”