By JESS WEBSTER
Photo: David Layden/NEAFL.
Redland teenager Jack Rolls was a shattered man last November when his name wasn’t called out at the NAB AFL Draft.
A member of the Lions Academy for four years, Rolls toured the United States with the NAB AFL Academy, represented the Allies at the National Under-18 Championships, and earned a second NEAFL Rising Star nomination – all in less than a year.
Rolls took a break from football following the draft, but was still lacking confidence when he joined Redland for pre-season training.
The 18-year-old said it was several conversations with his senior teammates which helped him find his motivation again.
“’Turtle’ (coach Leigh Harding) gave me a call after the draft and just told me to come down when I was ready,” Rolls said.
“So I took some time off and did my own thing and got away from footy for a few weeks. I started doing some work with my brother just to get some confidence back, and then went down to Redland with him.
“I spoke to a few senior boys around the club who had played for an AFL club and they got delisted early, or didn’t get drafted when they were 18.
“They basically said how you’ve got to get back on the horse and just keep going, really. You just can’t stop – you have to rip in.”
Rolls was one of the standouts during the Bombers’ pre-season, but was sidelined for over a month when scans revealed a partial meniscus tear in his knee after their last trial match against Southport.
Rolls returned to the field in Round 6, and was playing just his third match of the season when he was Redland’s best player in a 11-point loss to Canberra at Tidbold Park last Saturday.
Rolls’ 29 disposals, 10 tackles, nine clearances and nine inside 50s earned the young gun eight NEAFL MVP votes, plus another Rising Star nomination.
He has become the first ever player to be nominated for the award three times, after his first nomination as a 16-year-old on debut for Brisbane, and another midway through last year.
The Morningside junior has adapted to a new role as an inside midfielder this season, and while he is still finding his feet, it is a role he wants to grow in to.
“The last couple of years I’ve been more of an outside winger or half-back, but ‘Turtle’ has shown a bit of faith in me to throw me in the midfield,” Rolls said.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence knowing he’s wanting to put me in there.
“It’s tough at NEAFL level – blokes have 5-10 kilos on me, so I have to find different ways to beat them around the footy until I get bigger and stronger.
“But hopefully I can keep working on my endurance and strength and grow into a good midfielder.”
If there are two things Redland know how to do best, it is to produce NEAFL Rising Star winners and mature-age AFL draftees.
The last three Rising Star winners – Paul Hunter, Matt Uebergang, and Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds, have all come from the club, while the likes of Hunter, Uebergang, Josh Smith and Blake Grewar have found their way on to AFL lists.
While there is plenty of motivation around Rolls at the club, for now he is relishing the opportunity to concentrate on one team and producing a consistent season.
“I suppose if you want to get picked up as a mature-age draftee, it’s the place to be,” he quipped.
“Redland has been good – it’s the first time playing for one team since under-16s, so that’s been a big help.
“I feel relaxed and comfortable around the club. You’ve got one solid commitment and you’re not chopping and changing out of teams. You’re not all over the shop going to different trainings during the week.
“You gain better relationships with the blokes you are playing with. I’m really enjoying playing with the club at the moment.”
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 Academy players) at the start of the 2017 season.
Keep up-to-date with all of our 2017 nominees here.
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