JACKSON Bell’s rapid progression to A-grade midfielder has been capped with selection in the AFL Victoria Country under 19 training squad.
The Warrnambool teenager is one of 36 players named in the squad that will be trimmed for a one-off clash against a Victorian Amateur Football Association side next month.
Bell and former South Warrnambool midfielder Liam Youl are the only south-west players in the squad. Bell was selected on his performance with the Hampden league side against Ovens and Murray in Wangaratta, while Youl, who now plays with Ballarat, was part of the Ballarat league’s country championships side beaten by Goulburn Valley.
Bell’s inclusion underlines his rapid development after being overlooked for selection at TAC Cup level before making his senior debut with Warrnambool in 2012.
“I’m really pumped about it,” the 19-year-old said yesterday.
“I’m really happy.” Bell, who received a letter earlier in the week about his inclusion in the squad, said he had never thought about higher honours, preferring to concentrate on his role at club level.
The unassuming Bell rated his form this season as “not too bad”.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter put Bell’s development in perspective.
“Last year he was eligible for the 18½s when he won the club best and fairest in a premiership year,” Carter said.
He revealed North Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald had offered Bell an opportunity to train with the VFL club in the off-season.
“He is a complete player,” Carter said.
“Very good on the inside winning a lot of footy and on the outside he has a bit of zip that he can use to break the line. He covers the ground really well. He runs hard and he’s taken his fitness to another level.”
Bell is due to play his 50th senior game with Warrnambool against Port Fairy tomorrow. He has played 49 matches for 40 wins, including two premierships and last year’s best and fairest award.
Bell, who earlier this year had his first runner as a greyhound trainer, is keen to impress Vic Country coach Damian Sexton over the next few weeks to win a spot in the clash against the amateurs in Geelong on July 12.
“I had never really thought about it,” he said of making the training squad.
“But I definitely want to make it.”
He said playing with the Hampden league side against Ovens and Murray had extended his development.
“I learnt a bit,” he said.
Bell will find himself competing for a spot with an old school mate, Liam Youl. Youl and Bell went to school together at Brauer College before Youl moved to Ballarat for his VCE studies and football with TAC Cup side North Ballarat Rebels.
Youl, who is on North Ballarat’s VFL list for a second year, plays with Ballarat Swans. He is excited about making the training squad, having played on a wing and across half-back with Ballarat’s interleague side.
“Fitzy (coach Gerard FitzGerald) encourages you to play the highest level you can,” he said.
Bell and Youl will train with the squad on June 22, 29 and July 6 before a side of 22 players is selected.
The match will be played as a curtain-raiser to Vic Country’s number two senior side’s clash with an amateur representative side.