By JESS WEBSTER
He has been a star on the rise for years but a fresh start with Southport has rejuvenated Daniel Charlesworth’s young career.
The north Queensland product has been a revelation in defence for the Sharks, hitting its peak last Saturday with a best-on-ground performance against Gold Coast to earn the Round 9 Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
The transition from inside midfielder to rebounding defender began last season under SUNS’ NEAFL coach Stephen Daniel, where Charlesworth played 13 matches whilst a part of the club’s Under-19 Academy squad.
When Daniel and Charlesworth crossed to Southport this year, consistent appearances at NEAFL level has benefited the 19-year-old greatly.
Charlesworth said he is enjoying his new role, and is relishing a fresh start with Southport in 2018.
“I couldn’t be happier at Southport. I enjoy the club and I can’t wait to try and reach more success at the Sharks,” he said.
“I think I’ve taken a step in the right direction which is nice. I think a lot of it has to do with the team environment and just feeling comfortable at the one club.
“I’m putting less expectation on myself, and I think that’s due to Southport instilling confidence in me.”
It has been nearly four years since the Cairns City Lions product made the big decision to leave his home town for a shot at the big time.
He had just turned 16, and whilst there were plenty of challenges he was about to face, Charlesworth hasn’t looked back.
“I left home – my family still lives in Cairns – and I moved down at the same time as (future SUNS draftee) Jack Bowes. I lived with him throughout year 12,” Charlesworth said.
“It was definitely the hardest year of my life – I had to grow up much quicker than most people my age.
“I remember half way through at different times wanting to go back home. But looking back on it now, I’m really glad I did move because it helped me build a greater capacity to take things on.”
Charlesworth had a very productive under-18s year in 2016, captaining the SUNS Academy and was selected into the Allies squad whilst also building on his debut NEAFL season in 2015.
While it was tough to see his close friend be drafted to the AFL, Charlesworth doesn’t dwell on missed opportunities.
Instead, he’s purely focused on getting the best out of himself at the highest level he can play, and chasing premiership success amongst the rebirth of Southport this year.
“It was certainly tough seeing some good friends get drafted, but I couldn’t be happier playing NEAFL footy at the moment,” he said.
“A goal of mine was to play every game for Southport this year. I probably just wanted to cement myself as a consistent player throughout the year and not have form slumps.
“Obviously team success is another. Given how we were going at the start of the year, and getting back to that, is another huge goal of mine. I’d love to experience something like that (a premiership).”
A blockbuster clash awaits with Sydney University at Fankhauser Reserve this week, and Charlesworth believes it’s the perfect opportunity for the Sharks to recapture their best form.
“I certainly think we’re a great side and we can be challenging come finals time,” he said.
“I think we need to play to our strengths – we know the ground better than them – and just control the footy and then take the game on and use our speed and run.
“We’ve been a bit off from where we were at the start of the year but I think we can bounce back. We’ll be ready to go.”
The Tribal Sport NEAFL 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 Academy players) at the start of the 2018 season.
Keep track of all our nominees here.
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