SEVEN super AFL North Coast juniors have taken a big step towards playing elite level footy.
The seven players have gained selection to the QBE Sydney Swans’ Academy’s new Top End program.
Phoebe Baptiste (Coffs Harbour Breakers) and Poppy Johnston (Sawtell/Toormina Saints) have gained places in the female under 17 program, while April Devine (Breakers) and Shania King (Northern Beaches Blues) have made the Under 18 squad.
Three top male players have also made the Top End program.
Angus Anderson (Saints), Will Kelly (Port Macquarie Magpies), and Kyan Upsall (Bellingen Bulldogs/Saints) all gained selection in the male Top End program.
The QBE Sydney Swans’ Academy’s new Top End program puts the local players in the National Pathway and is a big step towards making the AFL or AFLW.
The Top End program gives the players an opportunity to play at the National Championships and in the NAB League in 2021, and also potentially secure a place on an AFL list in the near future through the AFL draft.
The Top End squads train weekly in Sydney with the program giving players of all ages a mix of skill development, fitness training and high-level competition.
All players in the Swans Academy also continue to play with their local club side, regardless of the division or grade their team is in.
The four local female players will vie for spots in the Swans under 17 and 19 squads when they play two Academy games against the GWS Giants, and a NAB league match against the Geelong Falcons in March.
April Devine and Shania King will also have the chance to press for places in the Allies team, made up of players from NSW, ACT, Tasmania, Northern Territory, South Australia, that competes in the National Championships on the Gold Coast in April.
The three local male players will also get the chance to make the Swans junior squads, when they play two Academy games against the GWS Giants in April, followed by NAB League matches against Geelong, Dandenong, and the Northern Knights.
Based on performances in these matches, Will Kelly and Kyan Upsall will have the chance to gain selection in the Allies team to play in the National Championships, whilst Angus Anderson will be in line for a place in the Allies team that plays a series of four matches against other states.
AFL NSW/ACT Development Lead Matt Crawley praised the efforts of the three boys who have made their way through the local pathway.
“The selection of Angus, Will and Kyan to the Top End Sydney Swans Academy training squads is not only a great reward for them individually but is also terrific news in general for footy locally,” he said.
“All three boys are dedicated trainers and have been high quality players through their junior years in local footy.
“Their selections to these squads and the opportunity that is now presented to them, goes to show the great pathway that exists locally to start at Auskick, progress to local Junior footy, be talent identified and potentially end up on an AFL list.”
The chance for the four female players to impress the Swans came as a result of their inclusion in the North Coast Academy of Sport (NCAS) AFLW program.
NCAS coaches were given the chance to nominate suitable players and the four girls grabbed the chance with both hands.
D’Arcy Van den Bossche, General Manager of NCAS, said that the program ensures that regional athletes have the chance to pursue their sporting dream.
“We are incredibly proud to be able to offer North Coast athletes the AFLW program throughout 2020-21, in what has been a challenging time for sport,” she said.
By Aiden BURGESS