By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
TRYING to identify an AFL talent that might have otherwise slipped through the scouting cracks was a large motivation behind the athletic tests that the NSW/ACT AFL held last week in Coffs Harbour.
Running the same tests that are held each year at the AFL's NAB Draft Camp, young AFL players in the area had the opportunity to impress with their athletic abilities during these tests more than their playing ability.
The brainstrust behind taking the tests out to regional areas was the State Talent Manager Darren Denneman.
"Each state or territory has been given the task of carrying out their diferent methods for talent search and we need to make sure that we don't miss too many of the juniors in NSW," he said.
"By conducting these tests in the regional areas, everyone gets an opportunity to be seen."
Denneman, who himself played AFL football with Geelong and Sydney, had to admit that he was impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the young footballers in the Coffs Harbour area.
"It's unbelievable that so many players participated on the day considering how hot it was," he said.
"Then again obviously they're keen to take part as these tests provide a vehicle for local juniors to be able to compare themselves against the elite junior talent around the country."
At the end of the day though, does Denneman believe that it has been a worthwhile exercise?
"There were two boys in Port Macquarie who athletically were fantastic," he enthused.
"One of those was only 15 and he'd never played AFL before, coming from a union background.
"His test results compared favourably to what the 18 year olds were measuring at the draft camps."
Northern NSW Regional Development Manager Chris McKinley believes that the whole event was a tremendous success.
"We only expected 20-25 juniors to participate and we ended up having 51 plus another 60 who attended the Auskick gala day," he said.
"While the parents and the juniors showed up expecting the session to be similar to a skills session on the paddock, they were all very impressed with the tests.
"A majority of the players had never been tested like that before.
"It's a step in the right direction and in the future, every effort will be made to ensure that any junior playing AFL will be given an opportunity to try and progress to a higher level."