WILLEM Drew’s aim at the start of the Hampden league season was to sneak a few under 18½ games.
But the classy wingman, still only 15, instead bypassed that grade and has established his spot in Koroit’s senior team.
Drew has played 12 games for the second-placed Saints, impressing coach Adam Dowie with his poise and composure.
The Emmanuel College year 10 student is still eligible for under 16s.
“It’s was a bit of a surprise,” Drew said of his senior call-up.
“I thought I might get a go in the under 18s and get a few games but it was a surprise (to play seniors) and I am grateful they have put me in the team.”
After a dozen games Drew says he had noticed the improvement in his game, highlighting his “vision, composure and positioning around the ground” as aspects he’s fine-tuned.
“I am hoping to keep my spot and keep contributing to the team,” he said.
Drew, whose older brother Haydn played for TAC Cup side North Ballarat Rebels and is now representing Mallee league club Hopetoun, said he enjoyed the challenge of playing seniors.
“My teammates have been great and all the coaching staff are great out there,” he said.
Drew is among a large group of teenagers making a mark at Victoria Park this season.
Former North Ballarat Rebel Jayden Brennan (11 games), current Rebel James Gow (13) and Jesse White (12) have established themselves in the Saints’ senior line-up, while Blair McCutcheon (six), Tom Lynch (five), George Swarbrick (three), Matt Bushell (three), Tom Moir (three) and Jarrod Korewha (one) have all tasted Hampden league senior competition.
Saints coach Adam Dowie said the flow-on effects of playing so many juniors would pay long-term dividends for the club.
“I just think in the whole scheme of things it adds a bit to our side now which is terrific,” he said.
“One of the things we needed to focus on after last year was a lack of leg speed and those young guys have been able to give us that.
“The other thing is, not just thinking the next eight weeks — and Warrnambool does this well — it’s about encouraging other juniors at the club to get involved and do the best pre-season they can.”
Dowie said the next generation had buoyed the Saints’ established stars.
“It gives a real injection of excitement and enthusiasm to the older guys in the side and also the whole club,” he said.
“They are going to be the next Chris McLarens, Joe McLarens and Ben Goodalls.
“The challenge is to hold on to them through work and school opportunities.
“We have to make sure we have a good environment, which we think we have, and good leaders.
“The club is based on good principles and values and that has to be our selling point.”
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter said he had recognised Koroit’s additional pace this year, pointing to the Dowie’s faith in the Saints’ young players.
Carter believes Koroit is the “form side of the competition”.
“There is a fierce rivalry between Warrnambool and Koroit,” he said.
“There have been titanic battles.
“There is a definite level of respect between the two clubs.”
Carter expects today’s game to be hard-fought with little separating the two sides.
“The deck is going to be heavy so we’ll need to take our opportunities when they present, especially early in the game,” he said.