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From South Africa to the Swans

SwansTV: Meet Eugene Kruger New Swans rookie Eugene Kruger talks to SwansTV about his tough pre season and his reward for effort
Eugene Kruger has joined the Swans Rookie List

THE Swans have added to their band of foreign legion players, picking up South African-born Eugene Kruger in today’s rookie draft.

The Swans have also picked up two tall youngsters to add to their rookie list.

Victorian Max Otten, 18, was taken at pick 21 in the rookie draft, while Ben Haren from South Australia was taken at pick 38.

Otten, a 191cm defender, is the brother of Adelaide’s Andy Otten and has been playing with the Oakleigh Chargers in Melbourne.

  Watch Max Otten highlights video

Haren, 18, is a 196cm, 91 kg forward who hails from Port Magpies. He is touted as a strong mark, who kicks the ball well.

Watch Ben Haren highlights video

Otten has overcome the disappointment of a difficult national U18 carnival and responded by playing well for the Chargers.

The AFL website says: Key defender who was controversially cut from the Vic Metro team early in the NAB AFL U18 Championships after Vic Country's Lucas Cook had kicked a few goals on him. Responded by going back to the TAC Cup and kicking a bag. Shows the same application that his brother Andy has shown at the Crows.’’

Kruger, 19, has been training with the Swans for the past few weeks and has been outstanding on the pre-season running track, blitzing the field in the 3km time trial two weeks ago.

He lives in Sydney and has played Australian football seriously for less than two years, lining up for local side, East Coast Eagles, but the Swans coaching staff have been impressed by his athleticism and potential to improve.

Kruger came to Australia with his parents Valme and Paul and younger sister Zane in 2000, when he was eight years old.

At the time, his only language was Afrikaans, but he settled quickly into the Australian way of life and forged a promising junior sporting career in rugby union and athletics (1500m and 400m hurdles) while at secondary school in Sydney.

Kruger told he was playing representative rugby, slotting in as five eighth,  and didn’t pick up an Australian Rules ball until he was 15.

“Coming from South African, rugby union is everywhere and that was my love. But then a few of my mates played AFL for Westbrook so they asked me to have a run around with them when I was 15. I played about 10 games but it was just social,’’ Kruger said.

But after he finished Year 12 at Sydney’s Barker College, where he had been in the First XV rugby team, Kruger decided to spend more time playing the Australian game.

He played U18s at East Coast Eagles, and then played in the Open side in the Sydney Football League this year, helping the Eagles to the premiership.

He also played a few games as a top-up player in the Sydney Swans Reserves, kicking four goals in one game, and bringing him to the attention of staff including development manager, Stuart Maxfield.

In October, Kruger was asked to train with the Swans and a month later he finds himself a rookie-listed player.

“I was nervous when I first came down to train but I’ve worked really hard to get this one chance. I’ve given it my all,’’ he said.

“When John Longmire told me they were going to put me on the rookie list, I smiled so much I was a bit embarrassed. I was like a kid in a chocolate factory!’’

Kruger’s father Paul was initially not so happy when Eugene wanted to play AFL over rugby, but has come around. “He knows how hard I’ve worked for this so he’s happy for me,’’ Kruger said.

He comes from a sporting family. His sister, Zane, 16, is the number one ranked tae kwon do player in Australia, and his mother was a top ranked 800m runner in South Africa, who still trains him in athletics.

Kruger has played on the wing and half back flank for the East Coast Eagles. He says he needs to work on his kicking and is eager to soak up all he can about the game.

“I love the camaraderie of AFL and being here at the Swans. I love the fact that the game tests you mentally and physically in so many ways. I just like every challenge that is coming my way at the moment. The unpredictable nature of the game is what attracts me most."