By JESS WEBSTER
Sydney University young gun Callum McFadden won’t accept missing out on last year’s AFL Draft is the end of the road in his football career.
The 20-year-old former Sydney Swans Academy member remains as committed as ever to improving his game, and cementing his place in a star-studded Students’ side in 2017.
The Wollongong-based midfielder had his 2016 season derailed by glandular fever only a fortnight out from the NEAFL finals series, before the Swans reached the Grand Final against the GIANTS.
But he’s bounced back in style to start the new year with a new club, being named in the Students’ best in two out of three matches so far to earn a NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
A member of the Swans Academy since he was just 13, McFadden said it was tough to miss out on the AFL Draft, but he’s got a new outlook since joining the Students last pre-season.
“It’s not always easy to deal with – to come so close to being drafted,” he said.
“You have a bit of a sook for a couple of days and the you have to get back and start making some choices. I ended up choosing Sydney Uni which has been a fantastic choice, and I haven’t looked back.
“Probably last year, being in an AFL club environment was more about getting drafted, and while that’s still the goal at the end of this year, right now I’m more looking towards enjoying my football and being successful with Sydney Uni.”
McFadden made his NEAFL debut for the Swans in 2015, but it was last season where he came along in leaps and bounds as part of the Sydney NEAFL Development Squad.
He played 15 NEAFL games until illness struck, and when the AFL Draft came and went, McFadden was facing a big change in his football environment after the past seven years within the Swans Academy and NSW/ACT Rams programs.
But McFadden says there is plenty of improvement yet to come, and is looking forward to continuing to work alongside Students’ development coach, Lloyd Perris.
A former Swans player, Perris coached McFadden at Swans Academy level before also joining Sydney University this year.
“Working Lloyd has been huge for me in developing my game,” he said. “He’s done a lot for me.
“One thing I’ve noticed with my game, is that each year, and each pre-season, and each game, I do feel myself improving and continuing to develop.
“Although you come so close to getting drafted and you think that’s when you’re at your best, I can feel myself getting better. I am not the same player I was last year.”
McFadden wasn’t sure what to expect when he walked into Sydney University for the first time, but he’s never been more excited for what lies ahead for himself, and the team.
“They are a a great bunch of guys and I am loving it,” he said.
“I think we really do have a great team and hopefully were set for a big year, and that’s what I’m focused on at the moment.
“Our goal is nothing short of a premiership, that’s what we want and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 senior games (excluding games as AFL top-up players) at the start of the 2016 season.
Keep track of all of our 2017 Rising Star nominees here.
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