Experience: AFL legend Kevin Sheedy takes part in a coaching session in Coffs.
Experience: AFL legend Kevin Sheedy takes part in a coaching session in Coffs. Bruce Thomas

Ball possession is AFL law

AFL COACHING legend Kevin Sheedy had a simple message for the young lads swarming around him and looking for advice during yesterday’s visit to Coffs Harbour.

“You have got to be the first one to grab that ball,” he said.

“When you are able to get that aspect into your game, you are in business.

“Suddenly, you are in a position to move the ball quickly and dominate the game.

“The last thing you want to do is fumble the ball and then discover you have to go back and clean up ... just as somebody from the other side arrives.”

Sheedy, who coached Essendon for 27 years and will be in command of GWS Giants when they make their long-awaited AFL debut in the 2012 season, was in Coffs Harbour with Tom Harley, the under-16 NSW/ACT RAMS coach.

Harley is also classed a legend of the modern era as a dual premiership-winning captain of Geelong.

Along with Paul Roos of the Sydney Swans, they are the star visiting attractions for the under-18 Joss State Zone trials at BCU International Stadium.

Their job is to guide the future footballers involved through ball handling, game sense and kicking drills.

But when asked what exactly he wanted the youngsters to learn, he kept hammering the importance of picking the Sherrin up cleanly.

“All these kids here today will receive a variety of training ideas and advice,” he said.

“Probably they will pick up half a dozen points of interest they can take away with them that are going to be useful.

“However, you’ve got to get through to them how important it is when they grab at that ball, to come up with it cleanly.

“Once you have that, you’re in business.”

The coach detoured from giving false hopes to the players or making inflated assessments of the talent on display.

However, he did remark on the visible signs of improvement since the previous Joss trials at the beginning of 2010.

“In the last 12 months there’s been a big lift in standards but we won’t see the game make a real impact (in Coffs Harbour) until one of the players gets into the AFL draft,” he stated.

“Take the case of young Isaac Smith ... he was drafted last year to Hawthorn, I think ... and the huge impact that’s made on where he originated from in New South Wales.

“He played in these same trials a couple of years ago and while he then moved on to study in Ballarat before being drafted, that’s the thing you have to aim for.

“When the day comes that Coffs Harbour and the local competition gets its first draft pick, that will be enormous.”

Smith was followed in the AFL draft by Hay rookie Ben Mabon who was selected by North Melbourne.

There are now a record 15 NSW/ACT players on AFL lists for the approaching season.

The GWS Giants last year pre-listed six players with the tally continuing to rise.

Sheedy used the talent resources in the Northern Territory to illustrate the possibilities in this state.

“One time the AFL was seen as restricted to the south but after a lot of work, it’s the north of Australia where the gold is coming from,” he added.

“It’s going on all around the country, that’s why it’s truly the all-Australian national game.”

Today is a lay day for players but competition concludes tomorrow evening.

Sydney Swans and GWS Giants recruiters have been spotted keeping a close eye on matches to help form their recently-established Academies in 2011.

The trials are the commencement of an AFL bonanza of activities in Coffs Harbour with the Sydney Swans conducting their annual Telstra Community Camp in February followed by the staging of the first NAB Challenge match for the city since 2003, in March.

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