Sunraysia juniors get sage advice from top Roos

This is an excerpt post of a news article, originally published and written by Heath Kendall of the Sunraysia Daily.

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FORMER North Melbourne teammates Anthony Stevens and Leigh Colbert teamed up on Wednesday night to oversee the first official training session of the AFL Sunraysia Academy since the coronavirus lockdown.

Stevens and Colbert, both veterans of more than 200 AFL games, shared some of their experiences and their pathway to the top with the hopefuls.

AFL Sunraysia area manager Don Harley said having Colbert and Stevens share their journey to the AFL was an important part of the academy players’ development and understanding of what it takes to become an elite footballer.

“Having guys like Anthony Stevens and Leigh Colbert come down to take training is great for the boys, but of more value is them sharing their stories,” Harley said.

“Leigh grew up here (Sunraysia) before moving to Bendigo and Anthony was a dairy farmer just outside of Shepparton. 

“Both essentially small-town country kids who forged amazing 200-plus game careers in the AFL,” he said.

Harley said Stevens and Colbert’s stories were an example of what you can achieve if you are prepared to put in the work.

Colbert, who recently moved back to Sunraysia, started his career with Geelong after being drafted by the Cats in 1992 with pick 18, making his senior debut the following year in 1993. He went on to play 105 games before crossing to North Melbourne in 2000, adding another 104 senior games to his tally before retiring at the end of the 2005 season.

Stevens also enjoyed an outstanding playing career clocking up 292 senior appearances.

Some of the highlights he enjoyed during his distinguished playing days included two premierships with North Melbourne in 1996 and 1999,  club best and fairests in 1997 and 999 and All Australian selection in 1998.

Stevens was also elevated into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2017 and was named in the North Melbourne Team of the Century.

“What that shows the kids is that the pathway is possible, and being from Mildura or Ouyen, but for the distance, doesn’t mean you can’t dream for a crack at the big league if you want it enough and you’re prepared to work hard,” Harley said.

Harley  said the academy’s training would run for 12 weeks and would be held every Wednesday at Gol Gol.

“It was a really exciting opportunity for the under-15 boys to be able to resume their academy training under a revised 12-week program,” Harley said.

“The under-15s, in many ways, are Sunraysia’s most interesting age group, talent wise, as we hope they’ll be the next group to push for selection in the Bendigo Pioneers’ under-16 program.

“It’s really important those guys don’t lose an entire year of development ahead of being eligible for NAB Leagues and potentially NAB Championships”.

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