Regional areas need to become a focus for Talent Development
After some down years on the talent front, WA started their national championships carnival two weeks ago with a whimper, losing by 88 points to an Allies side stacked with AFL academy talent.
AFL talent and draft expert Michael Ablett believes Western Australia needs to do more to develop young players in regional areas.
Ablett told Sports Breakfast the state needs to modernise its approach.
“We can’t keep talking about the tyranny of distance and how well prepared the other states are and their access to facilities,” Ablett said.
“Players from the Vic Country time are coming from four, five hours away. What they’ve done is put in the hard work and they’ve set up their academies and their training centres regionally.
“We’ve got to start putting more time and more resources into regional areas to ensure these country players are getting good quality training.
“This has been an ongoing problem for a long period of time, and I think it’s time that we start to find answers rather than excuses.”
Of this year’s WA crop, Ablett picked out key defender Daniel Curtin and ruckman Mitch Edwards as the outstanding prospects.
“[Curtin] is reliable. He’s a really nice left-foot kick of the footy, he’s got a big body on him already,” he said.
“He doesn’t make too many mistakes, he wins the ball back for you, and I think he goes very early.
“Mitch Edwards, there’s plenty of excitement about this young fella as well. It’s rare that we see ruckmen that are as well put together as Mitch is.
“He looks a step ahead of what a lot of other guys do … he’s a really nice tap ruckman, he gets involved in the play around the ground, he’s very sure with his hands, so he’s another player you’d expect to feature early in draft calculations.”
Number one pick fancy Harley Reid was red hot for Vic Country in their loss to South Australia, kicking three goals inside the game’s first ten minutes.
With West Coast looking likely to secure the number one pick, debate has raged over whether they should select the Bendigo product or trade down to secure more local talent, but Ablett said he would be selecting Reid.
“He’s generational. Players like Harley Reid, in my opinion, come along once every seven to ten years,” he said.
“He has those Dustin Martin-type traits. He’s a thicker body, he’s super powerful.
“Certainly not a shy type of person, he throws his weight around and makes his presence known.”
WA’s next carnival game is against South Australia on Saturday at Optus Stadium, acting as a curtain-raiser for the clash between Fremantle and Essendon.