International Rookies

AFL clubs have been encouraged to expand their recruiting beyond local shores, with a new scholarship scheme for international prospects.

The scheme— similar to that introduced for teenagers from Sydney this year — will enable clubs to sign up to two young players from overseas each season, including them on a separate list for international rookies. Until now, international recruits have had to be placed on a primary or rookie list, taking positions clubs have preferred to use on local, less speculative prospects.

South Africa, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, which had a player make Queensland under-16 side for last month's national championships, are considered the newest areas for locating international talent. AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan will travel to South Africa at the request of its government this weekend to examine its coaching and development programs.

Hands up who wants to be an international rookie? South African kids enjoying an AFL clinic in Mafeking.
Photo: Getty Images

But the AFL has protected its relationship with Ireland's Gaelic Athletic Association, and the future of the junior and senior international rules series, by excluding Irish youngsters from the scheme. They can still be recruited, but must take up a spot on their club's regular rookie list.

The AFL's game development manager, David Matthews, said the league did not expect clubs to rush immediately out to sign international recruits, but expected players to emerge one day.

Unlike the Sydney program, the scholarships aren't compulsory and won't be subsidised by the AFL.

Clubs can draft players aged between 15 and 23 who are not Australian citizens.

They can recruit up to two international rookies each year, to a maximum of six.

"We're not anticipating that all 16 clubs will decide to invest or speculate, but what we wanted to do is make sure there's a mechanism in place that would allow them to take a chance," Matthews said. "At the moment, to list an international player means you miss out on an Australian kid who's clearly far more developed, so we've at least got to lower the opportunity cost.

"There's incentive for clubs, and there's incentive for the volunteers running international competitions to try and push kids through. We think at some point in time someone will use that list, and that a player will progress through."

Clubs will be able to survey young overseas talent at October's Barassi Cup in Canberra, which will feature several under-16 international teams.

Article courtesy of RealFooty.

- RealFooty

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