By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 18 Rising Star Nominee: Jack Clayton
Jack Clayton knew it was going to come to this.
Since he was five years old, the Queensland junior sports star has been cramming a lot into his weekends, playing cricket in the summer and football in the winter.
He was first identified for his football talent as early as the National Under-12 Schoolboys Championships by the Brisbane Lions Academy, and continued to notch up the achievements in his teenage years.
Clayton was an Australian Under-15 cricket team the same year he was named in the All-Australian Under-15 schoolboys football side.
He then was selected in the Level 1 NAB AFL Academy, before winning a National Under-17 cricket championship title with Queensland last September.
But the demands for both sports were only going to increase, and Clayton was bound to make a choice on what path he was going to follow.
It was only three weeks ago that he made the decision to quit cricket.
“When I was around 14, I thought I was going to go down the cricket path, and then it swung back the other way the last few years,” Clayton said.
“I knew it was the right time to choose a sport, because both of them are getting pretty demanding.
“I have ended up not being able to do a pre-season for either sport because they overlap, and you end up become OK at both sports rather than really good at one.
“I thought, either way, I had to make a decision, and I chose football. It was hard, but I think the AFL is the right path for me.”
Clayton made his NEAFL debut for the Brisbane Lions this season and is beginning to find his feet at senior level.
The small defender has been named among the Lions’ best in three of his past four games, and his most recent performance against Aspley on Saturday earned Clayton the final NEAFL Rising Star nomination of the 2016 season.
On the same day, he was selected in the Level 1 NAB AFL Academy squad.
The Wests Juniors product will be eligible for the AFL Draft next year, and is ready to throw everything at his AFL dreams after getting a taste of senior football this year.
“I’ve loved it, and getting to play alongside AFL-listed players has been really good too,” he said.
“All the opportunities I’ll be getting in the next 12 months with the Lions and AFL Academies, being able to do pre-season with the Lions, and being able to play more NEAFL games on AFL venues, will be an unreal experience.
“I’m definitely excited about what’s to come in the future.”
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.
The winner will be announced at the NEAFL Awards ceremony on August 21.
2016 Nominees: Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds (Redland), Michael Manteit (Sydney Uni), Ned Reinhard (Sydney), Luke McKay (Canberra), Matt Wilson (Sydney), Doug Lawrence (Aspley), Brayden Crossley (Southport), Darcy Cameron-Reeves (Redland), Jack Goodall (Redland), Matt Vardanega (Canberra), Jack Rolls (Brisbane), Connor Byrne (Giants), Dyson Budarick (Southport), Tom Highmore (Canberra), Brad Scheer (Gold Coast), Jack Bowes (Gold Coast), Daniel Henderson (Aspley), Jack Clayton (Brisbane).
Keep track of all the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
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