By JESS WEBSTER
Will Gowers still has to pinch himself at the thought of being amongst the quality of Aspley’s list.
A midfielder containing Andrew Swallow, Jake Spencer and Matt Payne, a forward line with Ben Warren and Jono Freeman, and a defensive unit boasting Gavin Grose and Jackson Allen.
For a 20-year-old in his first season at the club, Gowers made it a simple goal to play in a practice game for the club.
That he has managed to earn a spot in their Round 1 side, play every match so far this season, and earn a Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination this week truly points to a young star on the rise in the competition.
“When they put the whiteboard up and my name is in there next to all those big names, you think, ‘wow’. It takes a while to get used to,” Gowers told neafl.com.au.
Hailing from Sydney, Gowers first joined the Swans Academy when he was 11 years old as part of the academy’s inaugural intake.
The Glebe Greyhounds junior made his NEAFL debut in 2016 and was nominated for the Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star Award last season when he was a member of the Swans Under-19 Academy squad.
Upon switching clubs to Aspley this year, Gowers has played every game and averages a career-high 19.4 disposals per game at NEAFL level.
With the goal of becoming a regular senior player in mind, Gowers said the opportunity to learn off former their most experienced players, plus coach John Blair, has been hugely beneficial.
“We’ve got a really strong group of leaders here and a lot of AFL experience like Andrew Swallow, Jake spencer, and Ben Warren – and John Blair is obviously a pretty good coach. So there are a lot of guys there to help you improve,” he said.
“A lot of what I’ve learned has been positioning and your body work at stoppages. I’ve been playing a lot on the wing and they’ve taught me a lot about timing in my running so I can get a kick. They push you hard on your positioning but also a lot on your work rate.
“He (Blair) can be intimidating but you know if you’ve got anything to say or you’ve got any questions, you can always speak to him and he’ll give you an answer.
“He’s always looking to improve all the players on the list. He just wants the best for all of them.”
After being a part of the Swans Academy for nearly eight years, it was always going to be a challenge for Gowers to establish himself in a new environment.
But that’s exactly what drew him to Aspley, and he hasn’t looked back.
“It (the move) wasn’t all football related, it was life-related. I thought it was a good thing to move out of home and try something different,” he said.
“Coming up to Aspley, the firs thing I wanted to do was just try and get a game, and since then I’ve been lucky enough to play every game and that’s really helped.
“I feel settled in the team now. It’s my first full season of senior footy and I’m really enjoying that – knowing each week where I’m going, and playing against quality players that every team has.”
As the confidence within Gowers continues to grow in the club environment, he is setting new goals for himself as the Hornets recovered from a shaky start to the season to generate some ominous form in the middle stages of the year.
“I thought (my spot in the team) was in trouble after our first three losses,” Gowers laughed.
“But now I just want to keep playing well and doing my role for the team, creating space and trying to get a bit of the ball.”
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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