The power of youth

The Clemente Code by William Clemente

Currently in the AFL, we are witnessing a significant change, a change in the classical players that have had all of us footy enthusiasts/spectators stranded on our couches and glued to our television screens. The great players of the last 10-15 AFL seasons are unfortunately becoming seasoned in age and gained wisdom as they are passing on the torch to young guns who have risen.

It is an exciting time for football as we are weathering a transitional phase, we are getting a small taste and preview into what our great game could look like in the future. The past couple of seasons have seen the empathic entrances and births of exciting young talents; for example, Matt Rowell, Max King, Zak Butters, Sam Walsh and Bailey Smith, to name a few.

The past 10-15 seasons has seen the AFL be dominated by some of the greatest players to step on a football field such as Gary Ablett Jnr, Lance Franklin, Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Pendlebury, Dustin Martin and Nat Fyfe. Players such as Ablett Jnr have hung up their boots, but the other great veterans mentioned are entering the twilight periods of their illustrious careers. These players are still considered the peak  level that are currently existing in the game as they are still inputting great influence for their teams. However, they are playing the roles of veterans as they are taking a back seat, guiding the kids and letting them lead the way.

Many clubs in the AFL are beginning transitional phases in their squad developments and some clubs are extremely benefiting but others are yet to reap rewards. Port Adelaide are a prime example of a current top performing club who are embracing the power of youth.They posses’ great young talents such as Zak Butters, Conor Rozee and Xavier Duursma as they are fielding 12 players between the ages of 18-21. Port Adelaide are certainly one of the favourites to conquer the flag and their embracement of young talents, nursed by star veterans such as Travis Boak and Robbie Gray is benefitting the club in the present and will continue to benefit them in the future.

The Gold Coast Suns, who are still young to the competition are continuing their approach of grooming young players. The Suns contain several young talents in their camp such as Matt Rowell, Izak Rankine, Ben King and Jack Lakosius; 18 players listed between the ages of 18-21 and the youngest squad age average of 23.7 years. The Adelaide Crows who are currently conducting a rebuild are looking to the stars of tomorrow with the youngest squad age average also of 23.7. Adelaide’s emerging players such as Lachie Scholl, Jordan Butts and newly introduced Riley Thilthorpe are being mentored by Adelaide veterans Taylor Walker, Rory Sloane and Daniel Tahlia.

All clubs in the AFL are possessing young exciting talents who will bring our great game forward, and clubs such as Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Adelaide are primarily forming their squads with youth who are being guided by senior veterans. Geelong has the oldest list in the AFL with the average squad age of 25.3 are not embracing youth to build a future legacy. With pre-season recruits of Jeremy Cameroon, Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins, it illustrates that Geelong are preparing for the present and not the future. They must bring a flag to Kadinia Park in the next couple of seasons to make it worthwhile.

It is a transitional phase for the AFL. We are beginning to farewell some of the great footy entertainers of the past decade. Several clubs are loading their squads with youthful talent and their senior veterans are guiding them in the right direction. Without a shred of doubt, the young talents we are currently witnessing will birth a new and exciting era of Australia’s game.

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