By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 16 Rising Star Nominee: Jack Bowes
Gold Coast Academy gun Jack Bowes still pinches himself at the thought of it all.
The development opportunities through the Gold Coast and AFL Academies, National Championships, curtain raisers at the MCG, a senior football debut at NEAFL level, and the chance to test himself against AFL-listed players are experiences he doesn’t take for granted.
Bowes’ reputation as one of the country’s best AFL Draft prospects in 2016 started back home in Cairns in far north Queensland, when a young talent was spotted by the Gold Coast Suns Academy at just 12 years old.
He has been a member of the academy ever since, and made the permanent move to the opposite end of the Queensland coast around 18 months ago to pursue his football career.
After juggling his final year of schooling and a few injury setbacks which curtailed most of his 2015 season, Bowes bounced back to be awarded the Harrison Medal for best player at the National Under-18 Division 2 Championships, as well as All-Australian selection.
Last weekend, he was among Gold Coast’s best players in their loss to Sydney, earning a NEAFL Rising Star nomination in just his third senior match.
The 18-year-old, joins fellow academy products Brad Scheer (Round 15) and Brayden Crossley (Round 7) as Gold Coast’s nominees this year, said being able to play consistent football this year has fast-tracked his development.
“Being able to play week-in, week-out, and being able to travel and play the game you love, has really made football more enjoyable,” he said.
“We obviously didn’t get the desired result on the weekend, but being able to play senior football against AFL-listed players was a great opportunity.
“To perform against the quality of the likes of Isaac Heeney, Harry Cunningham, and Brandon Jack and all those AFL-listed players really shows you what sort of level you need to get to.”
Bowes was already in the Suns Academy when manager Jason Torney joined the club in 2012.
He remembers watching Bowes show exceptional talent from a young age and has been impressed with his commitment to continue developing.
“We went out to watch an Under-15s carnival and both Brad Scheer and Jack Bowes played for different teams from different regions, and they both showed enormous potential at that young age,” he said.
“They were only 14-year-old kids but they were showing some extremely high level talent, and Jack went on to make the Under-15 All Australian team.
“He is a very professional kid and very mature for his age.
“He is a player that displays signs of both an inside and outside midfielder. He has got elite, clean hands and makes very good decisions. He is a good mark and a good size, so potentially he could go through various positions on the field.”
Bowes has just about achieved everything in his junior career. But there is one more box he desperately wants to tick – becoming an AFL draftee at the end of the year.
“It was a challenge at first to leave my family and friends in Cairns, but it’s all paid off so far and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.
“The AFL has been a life-long dream of mine. The chance to play NEAFL and develop through the Suns Academy has made that dream more realistic, and it's been an opportunity that I am very thankful 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 the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
Don't forget to download our free NEAFL App, featuring live Champion Data stats, player bios and more! Available now from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Have your say! Follow the NEAFL on Twitter (@neaflofficial), Instagram (@neaflofficial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/neaflofficial).