Emerging Sydney Swans speedster James Bell has a single-minded desire to reach soaring heights on the back of a brilliant 2019 campaign.
Bell’s shining season culminated in the 20-year-old being crowned NEAFL Player of the Year at the Club Champion Dinner on Tuesday night, reward for his outstanding work at the coalface of the contest.
The New South Welshman broke through for his AFL debut late in the season and has a fierce hunger to continue to rise.
“The first step for me is to enjoy my off-season. Then when it’s time to get back to the program and pre-season training I want to knuckle down and make a statement early,” Bell told SwansTV.
“I definitely thought I was a long shot to make my AFL debut this year, but I just put my head down and kept working. Then when the opportunity came I thought, ‘Right, I’m ready for it’.”
Bell registered an average of 19.3 disposals and 5.6 tackles per match in the NEAFL in 2019.
The young Swan collected 31 possessions and 11 tackles against the Gold Coast Suns in Round 8 in arguably his best game of the season.
A storied football journey entered a fairytale chapter when he was called up to make his AFL debut in Sydney’s clash with Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in Round 21.
Bell was such a talented soccer player in his youth that he was selected for Football NSW’s Project 22, a program aiming to prepare potential Socceroos and Matildas for Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.
He was also a member of the Western Sydney Wanderers’ under-20s train-on squad at just 15 and played junior soccer with a host of footballers now earning the big bucks in the top-flight Spanish and English leagues, including Daniel Arzani and Tom Petsianis.
But Bell is now enjoying the early days of a promising AFL career.
The 2017 draftee, who made his senior debut as fellow QBE Sydney Swans Academy product Isaac Heeney notched his 100th top-flight match, finished the season with two AFL games chalked up.
He snared his first AFL goal against the Demons at the MCG and marked the moment with an inspired Indigenous dance.
“That dance was for my whole family up and down the coast,” Bell said.
“I feel like I’m a bit of a role model for them back at home, and the dance was a way for me to pay tribute to them. They’ve been there since day dot.”
Bell finds immeasurable pride in his Indigenous background.
“My Indigenous heritage is massive for me,” Bell said.
“I live and breathe it every day and when things get tough I can fall back on that when I need some support.”