Long-time Bendigo Pioneers region manager Ray Byrne pities his players at this time of the football year.By Marc McGowan
Long-time Bendigo Pioneers region manager Ray Byrne pities his players at this time of the football year.
Byrne’s pity is not so much for the likes of Echuca on-baller Ollie Wines, who is set to be a top-five pick at tonight’s AFL National Draft, but more for those whose football future is not so certain.
Wines’ Murray Bombers clubmate Christian Burgess, a ‘‘very quick and very clever’’ small forward, is in the latter category.
‘‘All these boys are educated in (how the draft works), but it still doesn’t stop the nerves coming around at draft time and you just feel sorry for them,’’ Byrne said.
‘‘It’s very hard on the kids who don’t know if they will get drafted.
‘‘Ollie is going up to Queensland (for the draft) and he knows he’s gone and so would (fellow Pioneer Jake) Stringer.’’
Byrne, like most others, is glowing in his praise of Bendigo skipper Wines, who turned 18 last month.
Wines is an AIS-AFL Academy graduate, was an All-Australian and Victoria Country’s co-most valuable player at this year’s national under-18 championships along with touted No.
‘‘Ollie has been fantastic. He’s a great kid, has a great work ethic and has all the tools to be a great player,’’ Byrne said.
‘‘They expect him to be ready to play next year.
‘‘He’s got a fantastic family who support him to the hilt and nothing is ever too hard for him.’’
Byrne said Wines was ‘‘one of the best’’ captains he had seen in his ‘‘20-odd years’’ at the Pioneers.
‘‘I just think he respected everybody around the club and his teammates and it’s a credit to his family,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s such a good kid and that comes from his mum and dad.
‘‘He’s a fantastic team player and he’d do anything for any of his teammates. He’d block for them, he takes some good knocks and he’s genuinely a great clubman and team player.’’
Byrne said Wines was not as good at the same age as Bendigo junior star-turned-Geelong premiership player Joel Selwood, but had the same elite work ethic.
‘‘That puts Ollie in good stead for a league career, because this is kindergarten compared to what they’ll get down there and he’ll be able to handle that,’’ he said.
‘‘We all knew Joel could do it and we all know Ollie will be able to do it.’’
Byrne said Burgess was ‘‘at best a rookie’’, but pointed to Sydney Swans player Ben McGlynn as a shining example for those players who might miss out tonight.
‘‘Look at Benny McGlynn up in Sydney. He lived with me for a year when he was at the Pioneers and he never got a look in (initially),’’ he said.
‘‘Then he played with Box Hill, got rookied and look at him now — he’s played in finals, (reached) 100 games and it’s just been fantastic.’’
Midfielder-forward Stringer will likely be off the draft board before selection 20, while Byrne said Liam Byrne and Sam Heavyside, who both sustained mid-year season-ending injuries, had also generated AFL interest.
To read more on local players in the AFL National Draft see today's Shepparton News.
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