By JESS WEBSTER
Sydney Swans Academy member Will Gowers considers himself a very lucky man.
He was lucky to have been an inaugural member of the Swans Academy eight years ago, he was fortunate to join their Under-19 squad in the NEAFL this year, and he says he was even in the right place at the right time in Darwin on Friday night.
Gowers first joined the Swans Academy when he was 11 years old. He was part of the very first intake of academy members, and has been part of the club ever since.
Although he doesn’t know life outside the academy, Gowers said he is well aware of the environment he is in.
“Pretty much since I started playing football I’ve been a part of the academy, so I don’t really know what it’s like outside of it,” he said.
“But I clearly know I’ve got an advantage and it’s a privilege to be able to do some of the things I do, like train on the SCG with the Swans boys.
“I know that I’m pretty lucky, and it’s not something I am taking for granted this year.”
A Glebe Greyhounds junior, Gowers joined Sydney University at under-19 level in 2015, and earned an AFL Sydney Rising Star nomination when he made his Premier League debut last year.
It was the same season Gowers made his NEAFL debut with the Swans in what turned out to be a rollercoaster year.
Gowers played two TAC Cup games for the NSW/ACT Rams, but was dropped from the side just before the start of the National Under-18 Championships.
He returned to the Swans at NEAFL level in Round 16, played in their Preliminary Final side, and then the Grand Final to take on the GIANTS at Blacktown – only he wasn’t meant to be there.
“I played in the Preliminary Final and I didn’t have a bad game, but I was always told that it was unlikely I was going to play in the Grand Final because we had boys coming back from injury.
“I wasn’t playing, but then Callum Mills did his hamstring, and so I got called up to the Grand Final because of that. I found out at 10pm the night before the game that I was playing.
“That pretty much summed up the year for me, I was in and out of every side all season.”
Gowers regrouped after a six-week break to re-join the Swans for pre-season training in December.
He remained upbeat, knowing he had another shot this year to play consistent games at NEAFL level as part of the Under-19 Academy.
Gowers has played every game to start the season, averaging 20 disposals, and had a breakout match against NT Thunder in Darwin last Friday night.
The midfielder collected the equal highest possessions (28) for the game, together with seven inside 50s and a goal, as the Swans won a historic first ever match in Darwin by 24 points.
Gowers said it was one of the best games he has been a part of, and he feels he is starting to produce his best football at senior level.
“I’ve never had the chance to play back-to-back weeks in the NEAFL, I’ve always been in and out,” he said.
“But I’ve played the first four weeks and I’ve gotten to know the boys better and I feel more confident in my ability. I feel more of a part of the team and I think that’s transferring to my footy.
“We had a lot of academy boys up there, and it was a really good effort. Even (coach) Rhyce Shaw even said to us after the game it was the best win he’s been involved in.”
Gowers has never quite been at the front of the pack over his years through Sydney and AFL NSW/ACT’s talent programs, but he keeps grabbing at his opportunities to climb his way to the top.
Gowers would love nothing more than to represent the club he has supported his entire life at AFL level.
He is relishing every opportunity to play in the NEAFL, and hopes some more good luck goes his way at the end of the year.
“It (missing nationals) was a bit of a setback, but if you play good footy you’ll get seen eventually,” he said.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to get a better chance than what I was going to have this year.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is to play for the Swans. I know it’s all a bit of luck at the end of the day in what AFL clubs are looking for, but I’ll just keep trying to put my best foot forward to show them what I can do, and I just hope that is enough at the end of the day.”
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 2017 season.
Keep track of all of our 2017 Rising Star nominees here.
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