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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Centre Bounce: Mature-aged recruits set to inspire older draft hopefuls

If you’re a talented footballer in your early 20s who ignored overtures from state league clubs and chose to play with your mates at suburban or country level, now is the time to seriously start thinking about trying again.
The success of mature-aged recruits in recent seasons has made it more enticing for clubs to focus on players who have slipped through the cracks.
This won’t be news to you if you follow footy because Tim Kelly, Willie Rioli, Liam Ryan, Zac Langdon, Oscar McInerney, Matt Eagles, Brody Mihocek, Matt Guelfi, Bailey Banfield, Scott Jones, David Mirra, Bayley Fritsch and Billy Gowers have captured plenty of attention after being selected as mature aged recruits from state leagues around the country.
But they should be inspiring others, and with the June 30 transfer deadline approaching, anyone who thinks they have the talent to succeed at a higher level is running out of time to do something about it.
If you were born in 1994, you’re the same age as Tim Kelly. You may also be one of the men who AFL clubs showed enough interest in to invite to either the national or state Draft Combines with Kelly in 2012.
That group also included Richmond premiership player Kamdyn McIntosh.
Thirty-eight players were invited to test in front of AFL recruiters. A whopping 18 of them aren’t playing in the AFL or WAFL this season.
Many continued to chase their football dreams after being overlooked and found it hard to establish themselves as consistent WAFL players. Others walked away far too early.
There are many circumstances that prevent people from playing WAFL footy. It may be a young family or a job which doesn’t allow them to get to training. It may be that injuries got in the way or that AFL footy lost its appeal.
But if there is any fire still in the belly, the only way to get drafted out of Western Australia is by playing in the WAFL.
You may not be one of those players who went through the AFL pathway as a teenager. But there are plenty of stories about late developers. You might be one of them.
It’s not easy being a state league player. It requires a strong commitment and the lure of cash to play elsewhere is enticing.
But imagine how many big money offers Brody Mihocek would have received to play local footy when he was carving up the VFL.
He ignored them and kicked four goals on debut for Collingwood on Sunday as a 25-year-old.
The numbers indicate there is more certainty with picking mature aged selections late in the draft.
Excluding father-son and academy selections, there were 23 players chosen at pick 50 or beyond in last year’s national draft.
Six of them were already 20-years-old. Only one of those is yet to debut – Fremantle’s Sam Switkowski and his year has been ruined by injury.
Only two of the 17 teenagers selected late have played.
Time waits for nobody. The window of opportunity is open now. If you think you have the talent to succeed, why not have a crack?