IT’S State of Origin time in the northern states and we all know what that means: AFL media will put together theoretical Aussie Rules Origin teams, old school fans will pine for the return of the Big V, and the utterance of name “Dale Weightman” will briefly increase ten fold.
But we at The Hickey Stand are not that obvious – at least not this year.
We’re going right back to our roots in the TAC Cup.
Starting in 1992 with a paltry six teams (Northern Knights, Eastern Ranges, Southern Stingrays, Western Jets, Central Dragons and Geelong Falcons), the TAC Cup has become the main feeder system for young talent in the AFL.
Of the 808 listed AFL players this season, 411 of them have come through the under-18 competition (not including Tassie Mariners and NSW/ACT Rams). For those of you with competent maths skills, that’s more than half.
But like the big leagues, not all teams are created equal, so we thought we’d look at each region to see just how good – or bad – these TAC Cup zones are.
— BENDIGO PIONEERS —
THE Bendigo Pioneers comfortably come in last for talent production, with just 15 of their alumni currently sitting on AFL lists.
While their zone is one of the largest in area, they’re hamstrung by the fact sweet fuck all people live in said zone.
For a kid living in Mildura, the four and a half hour drive to Bendigo is enough to make you reconsider a career in football.
Unless you’re super dedicated, that is.
Essendon recruit Kobe Mutch, who lived with his family in Gol Gol near Mildura, deicded travelling was a bit of bullshit and packed his bags at 16 to finish school in Bendigo, boarding with a family there.
It paid off, but for other kids it’s a tough path to footy.
In lieu of your parents being called Mr and Mrs Selwood, the best way to the big league is playing TAC Cup elsewhere.
BEST 22 (or 15)
B: Kobe Mutch — Robbie Tarrant — Tom Cole
HB: Jarryn Geary — xxx — Joe Atley
C: Clayton Oliver — Joel Selwood — Scott Selwood
HF: Kayle Kirby — xxx — Aidyn Johnson
F: Sam Kerridge — Jake Stringer — Fergus Greene
R: xxx — Dustin Martin — Ollie Wines
— CALDER CANNONS —
THE sixth most productive team in the competition, 38 ex-Cannons are firing on league lists this year.
With a mushroom cloud-like zone that starts in part of the northern Melbourne CBD, and gradually grows wider up through Moonee Valley, Moreland, Hume, Mitchell and Macedon, the Cannons are the most successful junior squad in the competition, with six premierships to their name.
Populated mostly by kids who legitimately grew up in the area (we’ll get to the illegitimate ones soon), players benefit from the fact that their Cragieburn training ground is within an hour of just about every town in the zone.
Calder also benefits from one of the golden rules of recruiting if you want to make it big – live close to Melbourne.
B: Jake Lever — Daniel Talia — Tom Lonergan
HB: Brandon Ellis — Jake Carlisle — Adam Saad
C: Rory Atkins — Cam Guthrie — Mitch Wallis
HF: Richard Douglas — Shaun McKernan — Tommy Sheridan
F: Eddie Betts — Joe Daniher— Touk Miller
R: Reilly O’Brien — Tom Liberatore — Dion Prestia
Int: James Kelly — Lachie Plowman — Jackson Trengove — Jake Melksham
Emg from: Zach Guthrie — Zac Dawson — Peter Wright — Mitchell Lewis — Jonathan O’Rourke — Paul Ahern — Matt White — Ivan Maric — Callum Moore — Nick O’Kearney — Jeremy Laidler — Ben Ronke — Michael Talia — Roarke Smith — Andrew Gallucci —Lynden Dunn
— DANDENONG STINGRAYS —
HARD nuts abound in the Dandenong team, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from a club that includes a Frankston zone.
40 Stingrays are currently listed in the AFL, with a zone that includes all of the Mornington Peninsula and Casey local government area, as well as large portions of Kingston and Greater Dandenong.
Once again, the club benefits from the fact that almost every town is within an hour of home ground Shepley Oval, with Portsea (1 hour, 8 minutes by road if Google knows its shit) the furthest away.
B: Matt Buntine — Nick Haynes — Dylan Roberton
HB: Matt Shaw — Jacob Weitering — Michael Hibberd
C: Zak Jones — Tom Scully — Dylan Shiel
HF: Darren Minchington — Tom Lynch — Luke Parker
F: Shane Savage — Levi Casboult — Taylor Garner
R: Mitch McCarthy — Adam Treloar — Nathan Jones
Int: Lachie Whitfield — Matthew Boyd — James Harmes — Jake Batchelor
Emg from: Myles Poholke — Mitch Hallahan — Jarrad Grant — Billy Hartung — Liam Hulett — Mitch White — Todd Elton — Josh Battle — Jack Lonie — Ryan Bastinac — Lewis Pierce — Bailey Rice — Brandon White — Nathan Wright — Tom Lamb — Kurt Mutimer — Kieran Collins — Bailey Dale
— EASTERN RANGES —
THE Ranges are a little bit middle of the road in everything they’ve done.
With a zone stretching out from Knox into the Yarra Ranges (see what they did there?), they’ve had a couple of overall first draft picks (Tom Boyd and Jonathon Patton), a Brownlow Medallist (Sam Mitchell), a respectable 31 players of varying ability on current AFL lists, two TAC Cup premierships, two angry Scott twins and a partridge in a pear tree.
B: Paul Seedsman — Josh Gibson — Aaron Mullett
HB: Hayden Crozier — Daniel McStay — Kade Simpson
C: Liam Shiels — Rory Sloane — Heath Hocking
HF: Josh Begley — Travis Cloke — James Parsons
F: Tom Boyd — Jonathon Patton — Mitch Honeychurch
R: Matthew Lobbe — Sam Mitchell — Christian Petracca
Int: Ryan Clarke — Blake Hardwick — Aaron Young — Ben Griffiths
Emg from: Jordan Gallucci — Michael Apeness— Callum Brown — Dylan Clarke — Sam Weideman — Daniel Nielson — Jack Maibaum — Nathan Mullenger-McHugh — Tristan Tweedie
— GEELONG FALCONS —
SURPRISINGLY, Mick Turner’s footy factory has notched just two premierships in 25 years.
And one of those wasn’t the season they had Luke Hodge, Jimmy Bartel, Gary Ablett, Nick Maxwell and Matt Maguire running around.
With 41 players on AFL lists, the footy rich area of Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast, Colac-Otway and Corangamite has provided the league with some of the best players to pull on the boots in the past decade.
The Falcons zone was changed in recent years to exclude places like Warrnambool, two hours west of Geelong.
For those of us who grew up in that area, we were constantly regaled by stories of older schoolmates who had to travel at least two times a week for four hours to play footy, doing homework along the way, all while on horseback in the snow.
It was enough to turn us to writing about footy instead of playing it.
B: Jasper Pittard — Will Schofield — Darcy Gardiner
HB: Luke Hodge — Lachie Henderson — Ed Curnow
C: Travis Boak — Taylor Adams — Jordan Lewis
HF: Ben Cunnington — Paddy McCartin — Shaun Higgins
F: Luke Dahlhaus — Mason Wood — Gary Ablett
R: Sean Darcy — Patrick Dangerfield — Jack Steven
Int: Devon Smith — Zaine Cordy — Darcy Parish — Gary Rohan
Emg from: Allen Christensen — Lewis Taylor — Devon Smith — Charlie Curnow — Sam Lloyd — Darcy Lang — Rhys Mathieson — Jackson Merrett — Tom Doedee — Jack Henry — Tom Ruggles — Sam Simpson — Teia Miles — Hugh Goddard — Lewis Melican — Jackson Nelson — Alex Witherden — Billie Smedts — Jed Bews — Josh Walker
— GIPPSLAND POWER —
OWNING basically all of eastern Victoria (Baw Baw, Wellington, East Gippsland), the Power has 27 players on AFL lists.
Once again, the country zone can make it difficult for some young players, with Gippsland’s home base of Morwell four and a half hours away from their zone’s furthest outpost, Mallacoota.
The Power’s one flag, in 2005, included the likes of Dale Thomas, Scott Pendlebury, Xavier Ellis and Trent West, who would all go on to become AFL premiership players.
B: Lachie Hansen — Tyson Goldsack — Sam Docherty
HB: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti — Jack Leslie — Brendon Goddard
C: Josh Dunkley — Scott Pendlebury — Koby Stevens
HF: Tom Papley — Jarryd Roughead — Bob Murphy
F: Clay Smith — Harry McKay — Tim Membrey
R: Nathan Vardy — Dyson Heppell — Dale Thomas
Int: Tomas Bugg — Jed Lamb — Jarryd Blair — Ben Ainsworth
Emg from: Sam Skinner — Nick Graham — Jordan Cunico — Ben McKay — Sean Dempster — Lukas Webb
— GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS —
THE artists formerly known as the the North Ballarat Rebels, formerly known as the Ballarat Rebels, have 37 players on AFL lists.
With their zone changed recently to include the aforementioned Warrnambool and everything the light touches in Victoria until the darkness of South Australia, the Rebels changed their name to the much more fluid Greater Western Victoria Rebels.
Had the zone change been earlier, the likes of Jonathan Brown and Jordan Lewis would have ended up in Ballarat rather than Geelong, altering the course of history to the point where nothing really would have changed. Probably.
B: Kyle Cheney — Oscar McDonald — James Frawley
HB: Martin Gleeson — Tom McDonald — Matt Dea
C: Shaun Grigg — Matt Crouch — Matt Rosa
HF: Jake Lloyd — Drew Petrie — Liam Picken
F: Daniel Rioli — Jeremy Cameron — Dan Butler
R: Jordan Roughead — Brad Crouch — Jacob Hopper
Int: Seb Ross — David Astbury — Darcy Tucker — Tom Williamson
Emg from: Michael Close — Nick Suban — Josh Cowan — Jamaine Jones — Dallas Willsmore — Willem Drew — Cedric Cox — Jake Neade — Jesse Palmer — Nathan Brown — Rohan Marshall — Hugh McCluggage — Yestin Eades — Tom Downie — Jarrod Berry
— MURRAY BUSHRANGERS —
THE second most represented team in the AFL with 43 players, the Bushrangers have a habit of pumping out blokes who are pretty bloody tall.
Of the 808 players in the AFL, 212 of those are 193cm or taller (about 26%).
Of those 212 players, 21 of them played for the Bushrangers (about 10%). When you consider there are 12 feeder clubs in Victoria alone, it’s a pretty astounding stat.
And it’s not just current players. The likes of Barry Hall, Fraser Gehrig, Steven King, Robert Campbell, Justin Koschitzke and Hamish McIntosh all came through the Bushrangers system.
There must be something in the water of the Murray.
B: Caleb Marchbank — Ben Reid — Daniel Howe
HB: Jarrod Harbrow — Sam Rowe — Brett Deledio
C: Steele Sidebottom — Tom Rockliff — Jack Ziebell
HF: Steve Johnson — Sam Reid — Kayne Turner
F: Jamie Elliott — Jarrad Waite — Matt Taberner
R: Ben McEvoy — David Mundy — Jack Crisp
Int: Jonathon Ceglar — Taylor Duryea — Shaun Atley — Anthony Miles
Emg from: Josh Schache — Dawson Simpson — Alex Keath — Esava Ratugolea — Will Brodie — Max Lynch — Zach Sproule — Lachie Tiziani — James Cousins — Harry Morrison — Mitch King — Jy Simpkin — Sam Wright — Tom Clurey — Dougal Howard — Jarman Impey — Todd Marshall — Nathan Drummond — Ryan Garthwaite — Nick Coughlan — Josh Prudden
— NORTHERN KNIGHTS —
TAKING in the local government areas of Whittlesea, Banyule, Nillumbik, Darebin and part of Yarra, the Northern Knights won four premierships in a row from 1993 to 1996 but have failed to lift the trophy since.
Based at Preston City Oval, Northern has 30 players on current AFL lists but the honour board is pretty thin.
Cotchin has a default Brownlow, Bont should have won the Nobel prize if you listen to most footy fans, and Kreuzer was a No.1 draft pick, but otherwise it’s slim pickings.
You know what they need? A really expensive private school nearby …
B: Dylan Grimes — Michael Hurley — Heath Shaw
HB: Nathan Vlastuin — Aidan Corr — Jack Newnes
C: David Zaharakis — Trent Cotchin — Marcus Bontempelli
HF: Nathan Hrovat — Daniel Currie — Kane Lambert
F: Josh Caddy — Billy Longer — Jade Gresham
R: Matthew Kreuzer — Brent Stanton — Leigh Montagna
Int: Kyle Langford — Darcy MacPherson — Dylan Buckley — Jayden Short
Emg from: Matthew Signorello — Brayden Sier — Brayden Fiorini — Jason Castagna — Ben Lennon — Ivan Soldo — Tyrone Leonardis — Patrick Lipinski
— OAKLEIGH CHARGERS —
AND now we get to the absolute golden rule of being drafted to the AFL.
While rules one and two are handy (live close to the city and be tall) and rule three (be the son of a footballer) helps your chances significantly but is difficult to acquire, the golden rule is almost a must.
Attend a private school. It’s that simple.
While kids from the outer reaches of Victoria have to travel hours to get to training each week, private school kids are not only close to their TAC Cup training grounds, they grow up in an elite football system at school.
The Oakleigh Chargers have provided the league with the most players on current AFL lists, with 49 young guns coming through their system, and a lot of that has to do with the cluster of private schools around the Kew area. We’re talking Trinity, Scotch College, Carey Grammar, and Xavier amongst others.
Scotch alone has at least eight players represented, and that’s just the ones we know about. Some aren’t listed as having gone there in the AFL Record.
Having money and/or talent must be so nice.
B: Luke McDonald — Kristian Jaksch — Nick Smith
HB: Jake Kelly — Sam Collins — Dom Tyson
C: Luke Shuey — Marc Murphy — Andrew Gaff
HF: Jack Billings — Darcy Moore — Robbie Gray
F: Jack Silvagni — Andy Otten — Toby Greene
R: Todd Goldstein — Dan Hannebery — Jack Viney
Int: Jack Macrae — Lin Jong — Jordan De Goey — David Mackay
Emg from: Ben Sinclair — Alex Morgan — Jordan Ridley — Sam McLarty — Adam Tomlinson — Tom Cutler — Taylin Duman — Marc Pittonet — Dion Johnstone — Jay Kennedy-Harris — Sam Gibson — Nick Larkey — Jamie Macmillan — Darcy Byrne-Jones — Dan Houston — Daniel McKenzie — Ed Phillips — Jack Sinclair — Alex Johnson — Toby McLean — Ryan Lester — David Cuningham — Tom Phillips — Zac Clarke — Josh Daicos — Ben Crocker
— SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS —
BUT it’s not only Oakleigh that benefits from private school clusters.
The Dragons, who have 42 players on AFL lists, have the likes of Melbourne Grammar, Brighton Grammar, and Wesley College all within their zone.
It means that players from the country who board at school – like Tom Hawkins at Melbourne Grammar – play for their city zone rather than their country zone. Which, of course, makes sense.
Hawkins, incidentally, ticks all the boxes when it comes to the rules to getting drafted. Some things are just meant to be.
B: Andrew McGrath — Jack Watts — Jayden Hunt
HB: Tom Langdon — Mitch Brown — Brayden Maynard
C: Tim Taranto — Jobe Watson — Josh Kelly
HF: Christian Salem — Jack Gunston — Liam Sumner
F: Tom Lynch — Tom Hawkins — James Stewart
R: Max Gawn — Josh Kennedy — Zach Merrett
Int: Angus Brayshaw — Oliver Florent — Ty Vickery — Jarryd Lyons
Emg from: Corey Lyons — Cameron Polson — Tom Nicholls — Jack Scrimshaw — Ed Langdon — Will Setterfield — Kurt Heatherley — Lachlan Filipovic — Sam Frost — Harry Dear — Will Fordham — Ben Jacobs — Ed Vickers-Willis — Karl Amon — Taylor Hunt — Nathan Freeman — Tom Campbell — Fletcher Roberts — Josh Clayton — Harley Balic
— WESTERN JETS —
AT the other end of the private school scale is the poor Western Jets.
Representing the Western suburbs, the Jets have basically no private schools to pull talent from, firmly wedged between the private school rich Dragons, Chargers and Falcons.
One of the original TAC Cup teams, the Jets have never won a premiership, never produced a No.1 overall draft pick, and only have 18 players currently on AFL lists.
B: Bachar Houli — Kyle Hartigan — Steven Morris
HB: Corey Ellis — Oscar Junker — Adam Kennedy
C: Trent McKenzie — Michael Rischitelli — Liam Duggan
HF: Will Hoskin-Elliott — Jack Fitzpatrick — Connor Menadue
F: Jayden Laverde — James Sicily — Daniel Venables
R: Majak Daw — Callan Ward — Lachie Hunter