AUSTRALIA’S top teenage footballers will take part in a new concept that is aimed to feature the best players from the 2016 and 2017 draft crops.
Players will be divided up into two teams and take part in an All-Stars weekend that will involved two matches, one of top-age players (18 year-olds) and the other with bottom-age players (17 year-olds).
The two teams have been named after AFL greats Chris Judd and Michael O’Loughlin and will be a part of the AFL’s changing program for the Grand Final weekend.
The league has made the most of the Grand Final Day public holiday and the movement of the Grand Final parade to the MCG precinct, where the junior talent coming through will be recognised.
Current NAB AFL Academy coach Brenton Sanderson will coach the Chris Judd teams, while NSW/ACT & Allies coach Tadhg Kennelly will coach the Michael O’Loughlin teams.
The squads for the two matches will be announced in due course, but are expected to draw plenty of attention from fans and recruiters right across the country.
Judd believed he would’ve relished the opportunity to play against the best when he was coming through the draft.
“It would’ve been great to be apart of this game when I was in Under 18s,” he said.
“I could’ve played on a Luke Hodge or a Gary Ablett, it’d make for a really good viewing.”
The Under 18s match will be a part of Foxtel’s Footy Festival that will take place in Yarra Park from September 28 to October 1. The Under 18s match begins at 1.30pm on Grand Final Eve at Punt Road Oval, broadcast live on Fox Footy.
Under 18 All Australian and Vic Metro key forward Patrick Kerr believed the experience to play in front of a huge crowd was outstanding.
“It’ll be very exciting, especially Grand Final Eve in front of a packed crowd at Punt Rd,” he said.
— Matt Balmer (@MattBalmer7) August 9, 2016
Kerr himself already has links to the Blues, as the Grandson of Carlton Hall of Famer Laurie Kerr. Kerr’s relatives also sponsored Judd in his days at the Blues.
“My Grandma was his [Judd] player sponsor when he was at the blues, so I’ve had a few dinners with him.”
Fellow Vic Metro teammate Tim Taranto, throughly enjoyed the ability to play on AFL venues throughout the Under 18 championships.
“It was awesome… Simonds [Stadium] was a really good atmosphere, Etihad [Stadium] was amazing walking out onto the park. Punt Road looks like it’s in good nick as well, so should be exciting,” Taranto said.
The Under 17s All-Stars match will be a curtain raiser to the Toyota AFL Grand Final, held at 10am at the MCG.
AFL General Manager of Football Operations Mark Evans, said the All-Stars weekend concept should provide fans with the opportunity to witness the best talent on show for the next two years.
“The Under 18s match at Punt Road Oval will be the final match preview of the best players eligible for this year’s NAB AFL Draft,” he said.
“With the trading of future draft selections now part of the system, the Under-17s Judd v O’Loughlin match at the MCG will give a further insight into the potential for 2017.”
The AFL will also partner with Ladder for the two NAB AFL All Stars matches. Ladder empowers young people to break the cycle of homelessness by harnessing the support of the AFL industry’s profile, networks and players.