By JESS WEBSTER
He was born in Adelaide and now lives in Sydney, but Swans Academy member Mitch Rogers also has a family link to the very team he hopes to beat on Sunday.
The Rogers’ family might have a foot in each camp during this year’s Grand Final when Mitch battles against a club that boasts his uncle in their Hall of Fame.
Sean Ballans was recruited to Southport via Lara in Victoria and was a member of the Sharks’ premiership sides in 1997, 1998 and 1999 – winning the Joe Grant Medal for best-on-ground in the latter year.
A Queensland representative, Ballans was also a two-time best-and-fairest winner at the club in 1998 and 1999.
Rogers would like to think his uncle would be barracking for the Swans on Sunday, but won’t be afraid to throw some friendly banter his way if they win.
“Hopefully I’m the one who gets to call him and dish it out,” Rogers laughed.
Rogers’ football pedigree certainly runs deep when switching to the other side of his family, with his father Andrew a member of the SANFL Hall of Fame.
After playing 83 AFL games with Essendon and Geelong in the late 1980s and early 90s – earning All Australian honours in 1987 – Rogers captained Woodville-West Torrens for seven years, winning three best-and-fairests and two premierships in a glittering career which spanned over 200 senior games.
Having so much experience in his corner will hopefully come in handy for Rogers as he prepares for the biggest game of his career.
“Dad coaches (AFL Sydney Premier Division side) Manly so he doesn’t always come to my games, but he always calls me after every game to review it,” Rogers told neafl.com.au.
“He hasn’t spoken to me yet about the Grand Final, but I’m sure he’ll throw some wisdom my way soon in the next few days.”
Rogers’ joined the Swans Academy the hard way when his family moved to Sydney two years ago, but he has since cemented his place in Sydney’s NEAFL team as the 19-year-old hopes to one day follow in his father’s footsteps to the AFL.
At 189cm and 89kg, Rogers plays as a lock down defender or medium forward and is often the first player selected each week due to his ability to play those roles.
After playing two NEAFL games last year to 16 in 2018, Rogers said he is loving every minute of his football journey with the club.
“I played footy with (teammate) Sam Wicks and (Canberra’s) Jarrod Osborne for Manly and the academy were looking at them, and I managed to be invited to do a couple of training sessions,” he said. “From there I was lucky enough to join the academy.
“I played two NEAFL games last year and it was amazing to go from playing local footy at Blacktown to a Friday night game at the SCG two weeks later. It was an awesome experience.
“It’s been a great season this year and the listed boys have all been really supportive of the academy boys. It’s good that we’re able to play so much NEAFL footy this year.”
It’s no secret Sydney has struggled on the Grand Final stage throughout the competition’s history, losing all four season decider’s they have been a part of in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The Swans will field the highest number of academy players in any of those Grand Final sides against minor premier Southport at Fankhauser Reserve on Sunday.
But Rogers said not only are they are up for the fight, but many hold aspirations to reach the highest level where a standout performance on the big stage demands attention.
“It will be a big challenge for us against Southport, but it’s one we are looking forward to,” he said.
“I think our endurance will be our strength. We’ve all had good pre-season’s and have played a lot of senior football together this year.
“It’s a mix of a lot of feelings of nerves and excitement this week. It’s obviously a massive opportunity for me and a few of the boys to show what we’ve got on the Grand Final stage.
“We’re ready to go out there and give it a real crack.”
Southport will take on Sydney from 1pm on Sunday at Fankhauser Reserve.
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