WARRNAMBOOL and District league officials hope the creation of a junior academy will give top young footballers more exposure to talent scouts.
The league yesterday released details about the academy, created in response to a perception its juniors were being overlooked for representative and TAC Cup sides.
The initiative, months in the making, will involve about 20 teenagers separated into two groups, aged 14 to 16 and 17 to 19.
Performances at club level and interleague fixtures will form the basis of selection. Officials are keen to include “the cream of the crop” to ensure its credibility.
The academy will operate for the first time in 2015. Allansford footballer Joel Cornelissen, who has a personal training background, is the head coach.
WDFNL interleague coaches Ben van de Camp, Darren Cross and Greg Kew will also have central roles.
League vice-president Carey Hackett hoped the academy would create opportunities for players who wanted to remain loyal to their clubs.
“It’s really to give these guys a portfolio, so to speak, a football resumè they can then show wherever they want to go,” he said.
“If the (North Ballarat) Rebels ring up, they can say ‘this is their beep test result, this is their marking result.
“It’s to get them in the loop and open up doors for them, that’s all we’re hoping to do”
Hackett said the academy could also help clubs retain their players. No longer would the teens have to join Hampden league clubs to get noticed.
Hackett believed VFL and TAC Cup scouts did not look at the talent in district leagues across Victoria enough, necessitating action.
“These boys shouldn’t have to leave their clubs to prove themselves,” he said.
“If they’re happy playing district league and want to go to a higher level, they should be able to be picked up from Merrivale, South Rovers, wherever.
“A footballer will play his best football where he wants to, where he’s the happiest. It’s like everything in life.”
Details about the academy are included in a five-page document forwarded to WDFNL clubs late last week.
The document outlines that van de Camp, Cross and Kew would select academy participants after interleague weekend in 2015.
The teenagers would take part in single-day coaching sessions at the end of June, July and August covering ruck, offensive, defensive and midfield play.
They would also complete a range of AFL-standard tests — endurance, strength and agility, as well as traditional football skills — to build “data profiles”.
“It’s got to have credibility, otherwise it’s not worth us doing,” Hackett said.
“When it comes time to pick squads for the Rebels, we want to be specific, be able to say ‘this is what this boy can do, we think he should be on the training list’.”