By Nick Creely
It’s been one incredible season of AFL football for graduates of the Dandenong Stingrays.
The NAB League club out of Shepley Oval in Dandenong has produced many quality league footballers, such as Justin Leppitsch, Aussie Jones, Jeff White, Stephen Milne, Trent Croad, Brendan Fevola, Chris Newman, Matthew Boyd, Nathan Jones, Tom Scully, Luke Parker and Tom Lynch, but its latest batch of youngsters coming through the AFL system is making some serious noise.
Stingray premiership star Zac Foot became the latest player drafted from the NAB League club to make his AFL debut, with the speedster showing his wares in an impressive game for the Sydney Swans in a memorable win against the GWS in Perth last Thursday evening.
It means from the past two drafts, eight Stingrays graduates have made their AFL debuts in 2020, with Hayden Young (Fremantle), Cody Weightman (Western Bulldogs), Ned Cahill (Essendon), Sam Sturt (Fremantle), Will Hamill (Adelaide), Toby Bedford (Melbourne), Matt Cottrell (Carlton) and now Foot all getting the chance to impress on the big stage.
Foot – a vital part of the Stingrays’ first NAB League premiership in 2018, which has now seen several players go on to establish themselves at AFL level – was energetic around the forward half in the Swans’ dominant victory, snagging a goal after a strong contested mark in the third, before cooly slotting the set-shot.
The exciting youngster told SwansTV of his excitement after being told he would be making his debut by senior coach John Longmire.
“I rang mum and dad straight away, mum was over the moon and they were probably more excited than I am,” he said.
“It was a dream of my old man’s to play AFL footy and he didn’t quite get there, so I guess I’ve followed in his footsteps.”
He spoke of the areas of his game he had to work on to put his hand up for an AFL debut, with the youngster drafted with pick 51 in the 2018 AFL draft.
“A big thing for me working on was my running patterns, and working up and down the ground,” he said.
“When a few of the boys were starting to debut, it was probably my pressure side that needed to improve, and be at that level.
“And the last few games I guess it’s been at that level, and it’s paid off for me.”
There’s just a handful of Stingray graduates on AFL lists yet to make their AFL debut, with Oscar Clavarino (St Kilda, 2017 draft), Bailey Williams (West Coast, 2018), Sam Fletcher (Gold Coast, 2018), Mitch Riordan (Gold Coast, 2019), Sam De Koning (Geelong, 2019), and Bigoa Nyuon (Richmond, 2019) all looking to make a splash throughout the 2020 season.