Dee Why local Zac Youlten proves if there’s something you want, never stop trying.
For the past few years Youlten, 17, has watched with envy as a number of his team-mates at the Manly Bombers AFL club became members of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy and went on to represent NSW.
A year ago Zac, who has also been juggling soccer and cricket, decided he’d focus his energy on AFL and see what he could achieve.
“In the past two years I’ve tried to do as much as I could to get a spot in the Swans Academy,’’ he says. “I worked hard on my skills and tried to take the game on. I was hoping I would get noticed.’’
He did more than that. In September Youlten won the Kieren Jack Medal, awarded to the best player in the AFL Sydney U17 competition.
To claim the prestigious medal, he finished ahead of a number of the best players in the Swans Academy who play for teams across Sydney.
“It was very unexpected and I was pretty overwhelmed when I got up on stage,’’ says Youlten.
A week later he had another welcome surprise when he received a call from the general manager of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, Chris Smith.
“I got a call at the end of the season and was invited to come and try out for the Academy. I was very excited. I’ve been trying to get in for quite a while and I’ve finally got my chance,’’ Youlten says.
Smith says Youlten has been very impressive since joining the Academy’s summer pre-season program a few weeks ago.
“After we spoke to him Zac decided to miss Schoolies to join our program so he’s got the right attitude, and he’s done very well so far. He’s making the right impressions at the right time,’’ Smith says.
“Zac performed very well at club level for Manly this season and he caught the eye of one of the Swans senior assistant coaches, Steve Johnson, who was helping out at a Manly training session, so we were watching him from then on.
“Most boys come into the Academy around the age of 11 or 12 so Zac is a late inclusion. He didn’t come on to our radar until this year but it just shows that it’s never too late and if you perform well, there are opportunities to join the Academy.’’
Smith says Youlten is a skilful footballer who handles the ball cleanly and makes good decisions.
“He has the skills and the determination so we’re very pleased with the way Zac is going. We can see him being a very important part of the Academy’s team in the coming year when we play in the national AFL U18 competition.’’
Youlten knows he still has a lot to learn but is excited at his unexpected opportunity.
He finished Year 12 at St Augustine’s in Brookvale last month, where he was captain of the school cricket team, and has since been working as a labourer and gardener.
“I like the hands on work but I’m going to cut my shifts back a bit so I can make sure I can do my best at footy. I want to see how far I can go.’’