Round 7 Rising Star Nominee: Brayden Crossley
Gold Coast coach Stephen Daniel showed plenty of confidence to hand young ruckman Brayden Crossley his second NEAFL match against the GIANTS at Spotless on Stadium on Saturday.
His assignment? To tackle AFL-listed pair Tom Downie and Dawson Simpson in the ruck.
But Crossley is no ordinary player. At just 16, he already stands at a commanding 197cm.
Crossley grabbed his opportunity with both hands, featuring among the Suns’ best players with 21 disposals, 17 hit-outs, five marks and five inside 50s, and earned the Round 7 NEAFL Rising Star nomination as a result.
The young gun said he didn't approach the game as anything but a valuable chance to compete against professional footballers.
“I took it as a learning curve. Dawson is massive - 210cm and 110kg. Obviously if I want to make it to the next level, and try to progress myself as a footy player, I have to face those challenges,” he sad.
“I was really happy that I was able to compete against them around the ground.
I didn’t do as I normally would in the tap work, but I got over them a couple of times which I was pretty happy about, considering it was the first time going up against those big blokes.”
A local Gold Coast product, Crossley has been a member of the Suns Academy since his early teens and came through the Burleigh Bombers juniors.
It wasn’t long before he got his chance at senior level, making his Queensland Football Association debut last year as a 14-year-old, and was named in Burleigh’s best in six of his 11 games.
His father Troy – a ruckman and athletic defender - is a member of the Southport Sharks Hall of Fame, having won two premierships, represented Queensland and had a stint in the SANFL.
Playing football, as Brayden describes, is what he was destined to do.
“Dad was born on the Gold Coast too and he started playing when he was 12,” he said.
“It was always footy. I started playing when I was five, and never looked back.”
Crossley was selected in the Queensland Under-18s squad this season as a bottom-aged player, and Suns Academy Manager, Jason Torney, said the young prodigy has a bright future.
“His football knowledge is excellent in terms of where he positions himself and what he needs to do on the field,” he said.
“Being big early, he knows how to use his body, and aggression is key to how he plays the game.
“We were all a little bit nervous going into the game, because it is a heavy burden to ruck against two big AFL-listed ruckman.
“Sometimes kids get exposed and struggle, but some come in and jump up another level and be able to compete, and that’s what he has been able to do. It’s an excellent trait to have.”
Crossley’s football knowledge and aggression around the contests makes him a unique talent, and is something he wants to use to his advantage when he becomes eligible for the AFL Draft next year.
But for now, he is thriving on the competitiveness of fighting for his place in the Queensland Under-18s and Gold Coast NEAFL sides.
“The Under-18s is really good, especially being a bottom-aged player because you have a much more competitive drive to play well,” he said.
“It’s probably the same thing with senior footy - there is a not a lot of expectation on you because you are younger, but you put it on yourself. You want to compete at a higher level, and you want to compete well.
“I just want people that are watching me to never question my work ethic or my competitiveness around the ground.
“That, and aggression, are my main focuses when I’m playing footy. If people never question it, and they can see the effort that I put in, then I’m pretty happy with how I’m going about my footy.”
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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