originally posted on www.sydneyswans.com.au
Cooper Wilson in action for the U16 QBE Sydney Swans Academy side during the recent Academy Series.
The Manly Bombers Football Club is achieving great results from its junior program, with six players taking the field for the U16 QBE Sydney Swans Academy in the recent Series against the GWS Academy.
The Academy Series features the best junior AFL footballers in the state, and Manly was represented by more players than any other NSW club.
The six Manly boys – Taine Wright, Cooper Wilson, Tom Trevaskis, Mark Dignam, Aiden Adams and Daniel Cooper - are all members of the Swans Academy’s Top End program for talented players aged 16 to 19.
Academy General Manager, Chris Smith, said Manly was developing a strong pathway for junior players.
“There’s a great environment and a great spirit at Manly and it’s reaping results. It’s a credit to them to have six boys in the Academy’s U16 program, more than any other club in our zone,’’ Smith said.
Following the Academy Series, four of the six Manly boys were selected in the combined NSW-ACT team to play in the National AFL U16 championships, which began last Monday on the Queens Birthday holiday.
Wright, Dignam, Trevaskis and Wilson played in the NSW-ACT RAMS team that took on the Northern Territory at Blacktown, winning by 62 points.
NSW-ACT featured 15 Swans Academy players, and eight from the GWS Academy.
Wilson was named as one of the best players against the NT, and U16 State coach, Lloyd Perris, was impressed.
“I told Cooper we wanted him to play at half-back. He said he’d never played there before and asked what we wanted from him, which shows a maturity you don’t often see in 16-year-olds,’’ Perris said.
“Against the Northern Territory he gave us great run off half-back, and the way he communicated with his team-mates and directed them was also exceptional.’’
Taine Wright, who has played with Wilson since they were in the U12s at Manly, said it was great to have so many players from their club in the Swans Academy and the NSW-ACT U16 team.
Wright has worked hard to make his first State side, putting in hours of extra fitness and skills sessions to give himself the best chance.
In 2017 Wright wasn’t in the top team in the Academy’s U15 squad, and now a year later he’s playing for NSW-ACT.
“I’ve improved a lot in the past year,’’ Wright said.
“I was disappointed to miss out on the best Academy team last year but in a way it was good. I realised I had to work harder to move into the top part of the squad and I started my pre-season early, and did running and drills.’’
Taine Wright in action for the U16 QBE Sydney Swans Academy side.
Chris Smith says Wright is a determined young man and endears himself to the coaches because he’s a fierce competitor.
“He missed selection in our best team last year and he’s a great example to other boys who get a setback,’’ Smith said.
“It can not only be a great motivator, but it shows that if you keep persisting good things can happen.’’
Wright is still physically small, and Smith said he was the type of player who benefited from the Swans Academy’s long-term approach.
“He’s the sort of boy who might have been overlooked in previous years, but the Academy takes a long-term view on player development,’’ Smith said.
“Taine is a good example of why we do that – he’s turning 16 soon and he’s starting to hit his straps.
“But the exciting thing is that he has more physical growth, development and maturity to come, which makes him a really likely prospect.’’
The NSW-ACT U16 side will play two more National Championships games in July, against Queensland and Tasmania.