By JESS WEBSTER
Jake Bartholomaeus enjoyed a junior footy career littered with premierships, a NEAFL debut at 17 and six years as part of the Sydney Swans Academy.
But he was about to learn just how tough it can be to make the full transition to senior football.
Before debuting for the Students in Round 2, Bartholomaeus had spent over 12 months trying to break in to Sydney University’s star-studded side.
Upon leaving the Swans Academy at the end of 2016 – where he played three NEAFL games that year – Bartholomaeus join SUANFC, spending the entire year for UNSW/ES Bulldogs in the AFL Sydney competition.
While it was a year of forging mental toughness, don’t think for a second that Bartholomaeus didn’t see it as anything but a positive.
“It was very hard to crack a winning side last year,” Bartholomaeus said. “It was tough to find a spot for me, and I probably wasn’t big enough or strong enough last year.
“I put in some hard work over the summer to get a bit bigger, and now I feel like I am getting the rewards.
“I learned quite a bit from a lot of the older players last year during trainings and game reviews, through asking them questions on how I can get better.
“It was a big learning experience, but I enjoyed being at the club – it was good fun.”
A hamstring injury kept Bartholomaeus on the sidelines for Round 1, and even he was surprised to earn a club debut a week later against Redland without having to play in the AFL Sydney competition first.
But Bartholomaeus wasn’t going to waste any time making an impact, collecting 15 disposals and a goal in his first outing.
He’s kept his place in the team ever since, and it’s been his continued growth over the season which has caught the eye.
In his last four games, Bartholomaeus has been named in Sydney University’s best players in all of them, with his latest performance earning the youngster the Round 14 Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
“I’m trying to get more consistency with my football now,” Bartholomaeus said.
“(Coach) Tom (Morrison) has thrown me around the field which has been good, but the last two weeks I’ve been in the midfield a lot more.
“Also playing against bigger bodies – I think I thrive being around the footy a bit more and I think that’s what has helped in the last two weeks.”
Coming into season 2018, Bartholomaeus would have been happy to play around half a dozen NEAFL games for the Students.
He’s doubled that, and is now aiming to cement his place in the side as the Students look towards yet another finals campaign.
“I think I’ve definitely surpassed what I wanted to achieve at the start of the season,” Bartholomaeus said.
“My main aim was to get a game under my belt, and potentially play 5-6 by the end of the year.
“I’m really happy with where I am at the moment. Hopefully I can keep my place in the side.”
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 2018 nominees here.
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