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Academy plays the patient game

//September 14, 2020

Head coach Jared Crouch understands the anxiety being felt by some senior players in the QBE Sydney Swans Academy.

If things had gone to plan this year, the Academy’s Top End Under 18 and Under 19 players would have had at least eight games against the best talent in the country to impress AFL club recruiters.

Instead, their national representative schedule has been reduced to a mini Series against the Giants Academy.

The Swans Academy won the first game 7.7 (49) over the Giants 5.4 (34) in wet and slippery conditions in Wollongong.  Best players for the Swans were Errol Gulden, who kicked two goals, Sam Thorne, Jackson Barling (3 goals), Sam Eynaud, Luca Giacometti and Pierce Roseby.

The two teams will meet again tomorrow and after all the challenges and obstacles the players have faced this year, Crouch simply wants them to focus on doing the basics well and supporting their team-mates.

“Last week they felt they had to do it all,” Crouch said. ¬†“I know that every player wants to get drafted but it’s a team sport and if they play their role, then everyone has the chance to play better. If they’re good enough, they’ll still get there.

“I want them to take a breath, learn to be patient and just enjoy it.

“We get it, we know there is anxiety everywhere at the moment. This year hasn’t been great for so many reasons, but the boys understand they’re privileged to be playing any games at all when people in other states can’t,” Crouch said.

The Academy has unearthed two young players more than 200cm tall, and Crouch is looking forward to seeing how the developing ruckmen perform against the Giants this week.

Frane Babic and Lachlan McAndrew have only recently entered the Academy program, with Babic coming from a basketball background, and McAndrew a former rugby union player.

“We only had a limited time with both boys before we all went into lockdown earlier this year,” Crouch said. “But they worked on their skills on their own during that time and when they came back to the Academy, we could see they’d significantly improved.

“They still have a way to go, but the hard work they did during that time showed us they’re both fair dinkum and want to have a real crack at it.

“We’re excited to see if they can take the training we’ve done with them and execute it in games.”

The two fledgling rucks could not be in better hands – former Swans player and ruck coaching guru Steve Taubert is working with Babic and McAndrew at the Academy.

Taubert, Swans senior ruck coach from 1999 to 2017, transformed Canadian rugby player Mike Pyke into a premiership winning ruckman for the Swans, so he knows the drill.

The Academy players are fortunate to have not only Taubert but a gang of highly experienced coaches, with four Swans premierships players currently guiding them – Crouch, Nick Davis, Tadhg Kennelly and Nick Smith.

“I tell the boys to soak it all up and put trust in these coaches to teach them – there’s more than 800 AFL games experience and four premierships between us,” says Crouch.

Against the Giants this Saturday, Crouch is keen to see Academy co-captains Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell back up after strong performances last week. “They always set the standard and drive the group. It was important for them to get that one out of the way and to do well, after such a long and anxious wait to play again.”

There are a number of other top Swans Academy prospects to watch against the Giants this weekend, and Crouch gives us an insight into some of those players.

DEFENDERS:

Kye Pfrengle (jumper number 3):

He has missed quite a bit of football through injury but the Sutherland local is very talented. He reads the ball well and is a great intercept mark. Kye is very good aerobically and his kicking is a standout.

Max Geddes (number 12) and Nick Brewer (number 10):

Both are U19 this year and developing really well. They’re working on their leadership, marshalling the younger players in the backline. They’re both lightly framed but read it well across half back, are very courageous in the contest and move the ball nicely out of defence. Nick has a real turn of speed and Max makes smart decisions with the ball.

Sam Eynaud (number 8):

Sam had a great game last week, his defence was tight and he gave the opposition very little. As a medium-sized defender he has a good range – he can play on tall or small forwards and he’s reliable and strong in the contest.

MIDFIELDERS:

Sam Thorne (number 15):

Sam gives us an enormous amount of grunt in the midfield. His tackle pressure is fantastic, he sets the standard with his work rate, and his ability to win the ball in contested situations is so valuable to the team. Our Academy captain in 2019 has really worked hard to go to the next level this year and he deserves to be noticed.

Pierce Roseby (number 14):

Pierce works tirelessly in the midfield and is a very tough competitor. His ball-handling is clean, especially below the knees. Pierce’s endurance and work-rate are second to none; he runs all day for the team.

FORWARDS:

Marc Sheather (number 26):

Marc is a Central Coast boy. He had a great year in 2019 and played Allies and would have loved to do that again to show what he is capable of. But he’ll make the most of this opportunity because he always works hard, is a strong mark and likes to hit the goals. He’s a powerful boy and works very well with our midfielders.

Jackson Barling (number 25):

The North Shore prospect kicked three goals against the Giants last week, playing deep forward where his strong marking pays dividends. He’s mid-size and very good overhead, strong-bodied with great balance.

KEY POSITION PLAYERS:

Reed van Huisstede (number 4):

Reed is a really versatile player. We played him at centre half back last week and he did really well, but we’ll swing him forward this week to show he can play at either end. At 196cm he’s a great size, is strong overhead, very athletic and an elite runner. He’s a Newcastle boy, and we believe he has plenty of future development.

Sam Gaden (number 2):

For a 197cm player, Sam’s athleticism and agility are outstanding. He has played in the ruck but with Babic and McAndrew in the team, we can pin him down to play a key position role, either back or forward as he has the smarts to do both. In defence his closing speed is a real asset, and he’s very mobile.