Sydney Swans Academy players Dillon Walsh-Hall and Isaiah Olsen have claimed a debut win with the NSW/ACT Rams in the AFL Under-16s Championships.
The pair, who play locally for Warners Bay, faced Northern Territory last week at Blacktown in the first of three interstate games.
The Rams were far too good for the boys from the Top End winning by 62 points, 16.9 (105) to 6.7 (43).
Made up of players from the Swans and GWS Giants Academies, the squad’s preparation was limited.
But Rams coach Lloyd Perris believes the side are capable of wining their next two games against Queensland and Tasmania next month.
“It’s really important the players build relationships with each other and buy in to what the Rams are about,” Perris said.
“If the players combine this with a growth mindset and the want to learn and improve, then that’s all I can ask for as a coach. If they are able to do that, it will be a successful championships.”
Both Walsh-Hall and Olsen regularly travel to Sydney for the Swans Academy – a significant commitment.
Walsh-Hall, 16, an electrical apprentice in Newcastle, travels via train to Sydney for weekly training sessions.
“On Thursdays before the games I was knocking off work at 12 o’clock and catching the train down to Sydney, doing all our training and meetings, and then catching the train home,” he said.
“The train would get in around 11 o’clock [pm] and then I’d get up and go to work at five [am]. Mum would drive me back down on a Friday arvo to play in games.”
The 1.98 metre tall ruckman only started playing AFL in 2014. Like Olsen, he earned his Rams spot after the Academy Series (three games against the GWS Academy) earlier this year.
“Dillon is a shining example of the commitment that some of our Academy boys make in order to go further with their football,” Academy coach Nick Davis said.
“He has shown real maturity and a sense of discipline to take on an apprenticeship as well, and get to this level with his football so quickly.’’
Olsen, a talented all-round sportsman, only committed to AFL in late 2017. Before doing so, he was offered a Newcastle Knights under-16 development squad spot after playing in the NSW All Schools Touch competition.
Much like his teammate, Olsen, 15, only started playing AFL in his teenage years.
“I feel AFL just offered better opportunities for myself” the Year 10 Lambton High School student said.
“So I thought I’d do what the heart said and go with the AFL. Everybody’s supported me from day one since I took the opportunity with the Swans.’’
The Rams play Queensland at Mertricon Stadium on July 10 and Tasmania in Brisbane on July 14.