By MITCH TERPSTRA and JESS WEBSTER
This year will represent an exciting new era for young local Sydney talent, according to Sydney University coach Tom Morrison.
The Students have lost plenty of experience in the off-season, but an influx of enthusiastic youngsters has rejuvenated a playing list ready to begin a new chapter in 2019.
“We’ve lost a lot of that (experienced) talent and we haven’t gone after anyone to fill that gap, we’ve gone for local talent not only from the Swans Academy, but the GIANTS Academy, and the AFL Sydney teams,” Morrison told neafl.com.au.
“We’ve definitely got a lot of young, engaged men who are developing, are very enthusiastic and are working very hard. As a coach, it’s really enjoyable and also for the senior players to have that enthusiasm around.”
Xavier Richards, Damien Bonney, Jake Derickx, Aaron Day, Jackson Potter, Mitchell Thompson and Craig Bird are some of the names who have retired or moved on, as well as last year’s Driscoll medallist Ryan Hebron.
Among some of the fresh faces are Bailey Stewart (Swans Academy/East Coast Eagles), Josh Stern (Swans Academy/Pennant Hills), Joey Reinhard (Swans Academy/ UNSW-ES), and Jake Veale (Sturt), who has returned to his home state.
Morrison isn’t dwelling on the quality of players who have left, rather focusing on turning Sydney University in to a strong talent pathway for aspiring players.
“We probably haven’t been in a position where we’ve had enough young talent to have 10 or 15 senior players finish up at one time, and not be in a vulnerable position,” Morrison explained.
“But we don’t think that’s the case, we think there is enough talent to fill that need without having to go after players from interstate or ex-AFL players.
“It’s really satisfying to think we’re there now – we just need to make sure we keep developing these kids.
“I think those guys can clearly see a pathway for them to be long-term NEAFL footballers and step in to leadership roles and things like that. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable so far.”
With the Canberra Demons – who beat Sydney University in an upset Elimination Final victory to end the Students season last year – defying the odds to reach new heights with a young side, Morrison says there is no reason why the Students can’t be finals contenders in 2019.
But he stopped short of declaring any big goals for the squad, instead focusing on player development and simply winning as many games as they can.
“I think it would be silly to put a goal on what we want to achieve this year because we’ve had such a massive turnover of our list, and a lot of these guys will be playing NEAFL for the first time,” he said.
“But I won’t be putting a cap on where we think we can end up. We’ll be going as far as we possibly can. I be a fool to say we’ve got a list to win a premiership, but we’ll definitely die trying.”
The Students had an intraclub hit-out last week before their first practice match against Sydney at Henson Park this Saturday.
Morrison said he is looking forward to which players put their hands up for Round 1 selection in a blockbuster clash against Aspley at home.
“I don’t know how exactly we’re going to shape up for Round 1, but we’ll probably have around 10 debutants which is extremely exciting for me,” he said.
“Just looking at the way the list is comprised this year, it’s going to be exciting. They aren’t going to be spoon-fed games, they’ll earn their spot.
“These next practice games are just about fine turning everything we’ve been working on and make sure we execute that as best we can.
“I’m looking forward to seeing which of these young kids really steps up when it’s against someone in a different jumper.”
Check out the full NEAFL practice match schedule here.
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