BLAKE Rudland-Castles’ rise into the Warrnambool and District representative side started with one of the most basic premises in football.
The teenager wanted to play with mates. He traded North Warrnambool Eagles for East Warrnambool last season to run out alongside Allie Clarke.
Fast forward to last night and Rudland-Castles, 18, was putting the finishing touches on prepration for the biggest match of his emerging career.
The silky-skilled onballer with pace to burn is the youngest member of the side which will play Colac and District at Central Reserve, Colac tomorrow.
He is the first Bomber to earn selection since officials revived the league’s participation in the AFL Victoria country championships last year.
“It’s awesome. I didn’t think at the start of the year I’d get picked for the 62-person squad but it’s great,” he said.
Rudland-Castles’ selection marks the high point of a season which has already had its fair share of highs and lows at club level.
He had been a key contributor in the Bombers’ 2-2 start and was arguably best afield during an enthralling match against Timboon Demons in round five.
But his season and interleague ambitions seemed dashed midway through the last quarter when he went down, clutching a knee.
Rudland-Castles feared the worst. The thoughts his campaign was over were impossible to ignore. But a diagnosis the next week gave him hope.
“It was season over, for sure. It felt horrible, I heard a pop. I couldn’t get up. (But) I bruised a bone and strained a ligament,” he said.
“They originally thought I’d torn my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) but the MRI came up positive.”
Rudland-Castles said he was “a bit iffy” when thinking about leaving North Warrnambool Eagles.
But a conversation with East Warrnambool coach Paul Butters convinced him the move would be beneficial for his career.
He has played 23 matches for the red-and-black army, kicking 12 goals and featuring in the best 14 times. His confidence has risen with every match.
“There was a thought (I would play seniors at North) but I thought I’d have to wait a few more years and get better at footy,” he said.
Rudland-Castles said he believed Warrnambool and District had every chance to turn the tables on Colac and District tomorrow.