At the start of each football season, QBE Sydney Swans Academy member Kale Gabila writes down his short-term and long-term goals.
This year, he wanted to make the Combined Independent Schools representative team and earn a spot in the Academy’s elite benchmark training program that started last month. Tick and tick.
His third goal was a bit less serious. “I wanted to take a couple of ‘hangers’ during the season, and I did manage to get up on a few people so that was fun,’’ says Kale, who is not tall at this stage, but has a big leap.
The 15-year-old plays for his school, Knox Grammar, and for the Willoughby/Mosman Swans, as well as taking part in Academy Cup games.
As a member of the Academy’s Under 15 squad, Kale is participating in the summer pre-season benchmark program for the first time and hoping to perform well enough to be selected in the Academy’s 2018 squad. “The program is pretty hard, but hopefully the training I’ve done in the lead-up will help me get through it.’’
Gabila loves everything about playing AFL. “I love seeing my mates kick goals, and to get around my team-mates. I try to be a leader and encourage boys if they miss a kick or get down about something on the field,’’ he says.
“I talk a lot on the field!’’
Gabila is held in high regard by his Academy coaches, who value his on-field courage, discipline and his leadership qualities. Academy general manager, Chris Smith, is expecting a big 2018 from the youngster.
“Kale is one of those young players you can’t help but like - he’s a real competitor, and trains and plays with maximum effort,’’ Smith says.
“He really is a fantastic Academy member. He ensures other players are involved and shows leadership on many fronts, particularly through voice and setting a physical example. He’s a tough kid in the best way.’’
Kale tried footy for the first time in Year 6, when he played for Forestville Public School in the Paul Kelly Cup, a modified rules competition that has helped introduce many NSW youngsters to AFL.
His athleticism impressed officials and he was included in the Sydney North public schools representative team.
He had previously been playing rugby, but found he was more suited to AFL. He decided to switch codes in Year 7 when he went to Knox Grammar, where AFL is a growing sport.
Kale plays in the midfield or forward, and has already started thinking about his 2018 goals.
“I’d like to keep on track with my fitness routine and make the U16 NSW-ACT Rams team,’’ he says. Not to mention taking a few more hangers.
But whatever happens in the future, Kale says being part of the Academy has been a benefit to him.
“It hasn’t just been learning the skills and the rules. It’s all the extra things the coaches talk to us about, such as trying your hardest and treating your parents with respect. I really try to take those messages on board.’’