By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 3 Rising Star Nominee: Ned Reinhard
The Sydney Swans NEAFL Development Program has produced some early season success with teenage forward Ned Reinhard earning the Round 3 NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
The program was formed this year, in partnership with Sydney University Australian National Football Club (SUANFC), to give the Swans priority access to 19-year-old “graduates” of the Swans Academy and NSW/ACT Rams programs.
The NEAFL Development Program aims to provide those players an extra season within an AFL club environment to further enhance their development.
Reinhard, who turns 19 in June, is one of eight members of the squad who will play the majority of 2016 as a top-up player for Swans’ NEAFL side, otherwise playing for the Students when not required by Sydney.
The 194cm forward impressed with strong marking and a return of 6.0 in Sydney’s 97-point win over Redland on Saturday, becoming Sydney’s first NEAFL Rising Star nominee since 2013.
QBE Sydney Swans Academy coach, Jared Crouch, said it is important to give these aspiring footballers as extra year to concentrate on playing consistent senior football.
“We’re a bit different to Queensland in terms of our under-18s are dealing with their Year 12 schooling, and trying to play for the NSW/ACT Rams, whereas the Queensland boys have generally finished their schooling and can focus purely on their football,” he said.
“It is about helping some of those under-19s continue to develop. This squad gives these boys another year - away from the big study focus - to perhaps try and make it to the AFL.”
Growing up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Reinhard began playing for East Sydney Bulldogs as a junior and was a member of last year’s Under-18 NSW/ACT Rams National Championships side.
He has been a part of the Sydney Swans Academy for the past four years, making his NEAFL debut last season.
After missing out on the AFL draft last season, Reinhard commenced full pre-season training with the Swans, and will split his time between training with the Swans Academy and the senior squad at times throughout this season.
He described his time at the Swans so far as “unbelievable” and said the NEAFL Development Squad is exactly what he needs at this point in his development.
“After missing out on the draft, this is a pretty good substitute,” he said.
“We were walking in to pre-season training on the first day with all the rest of the draftees. The experience has been awesome and helped us so much.
“It’s great to be able to get to know the senior players more this year, because you have a better understanding of what you need to be doing on the field rather than coming in to the side with a couple of days’ notice.”
Reinhard is beginning to build some confidence after dealing with stress fractures from a big growth spurt a couple of years ago.
After playing three NEAFL games last year, he has played in every match so far in 2016 and is looking forward to giving his AFL dream
“Having last year injury-free, and so far this one, has really helped,” he said.
“Most of the AFL recruiters have told me I haven’t fully developed yet, and my under-19s year is when I will reach my full potential.
“Definitely I want to give it (AFL) the best shot that I can. I got a lot of confidence from the first few rounds, and Saturday’s game in particular.”
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 at the start of the 2016 season.
Keep track of all the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
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