When Jordan Foote of UNSW-Easts was selected by the Sydney Swans with pick 76 of the 2014 AFL rookie draft, hundreds of teenagers across the country were left disappointed and wondering what their next move would be. They had missed out on being picked up by an AFL club and their dream career had been put on hold. What would they do next?
For Murray Bushrangers pair Nick Coughlan and David Mennen, the decision was simple. They would return to the club that had given them so much and go another year in the TAC Cup as overaged players.
Murray has had a decent record at helping kids that had missed out as 18-year-olds to get drafted the next year. In 2012 they helped Matt Taberner get recruited by Fremantle and last year Nathan Drummond and Dan Howe were both selected by Richmond and Hawthorn respectively.
Coughlan, a versatile tall whose move to centre half back has seen a massive improvement in his play from 2014, saw returning as an obvious move. Several clubs had spoken to the former AFL level two academy member at the draft combine but an injury riddled season left him coming from too far back to have a real chance at being drafted.
Several recruiters told him that a move to play state league football was risky, as there was a big chance that he could get lost in the shuffle and be stuck in the abyss that is the VFL reserves. TAC Cup football offered him a chance to come back and show what he can do each week whilst getting the opportunity to improve his leadership by taking charge of a young Bushrangers backline.
While he is playing TAC Cup football again, Coughlan is still working on his game with VFL club Footscray. “I’m living in Melbourne and training with Footscray in the VFL so I’ve been learning so much from them,” he said. “There’s a lot of ex-AFL players playing there and you can learn so much.”
Another Bushranger who has mixed TAC Cup football with VFL is Benalla’s David Mennen. While Mennen had put together two solid seasons of football as a wingman for Murray, he also missed out on selection in the drafts. But while he was disappointed to miss out, he also understood why.
“I’m a bit younger than most of the other guys,” he said. “I’m a December birthday.”
Being almost a bottom-aged player last year made his season even more impressive. He was regularly in the best players and played two games for Vic Country in the Under 18 Championships despite an ankle injury hampering his build up to the carnival.
The return to TAC Cup football has been great for Mennen who can continue to play at a high level and keep his name in the back of recruiter’s minds. He has starred for Murray this year, being named in the best players in three of his four games leading to a call up to play VFL football for Collingwood last month.
He is also hopeful of making the Vic Country squad and making an impact in this Championships.
For both of these players, the door is not shut. They realise that if they continue to work hard on their game, under the guidance of quality coaches, they can still make it to the big time. And whilst it isn’t something they like to talk about, Mennen admits that they have a burning desire to prove they can play at the next level.
“I don’t like to think about it but it’s obviously there in the back of your mind,” he said.
These two boys certainly have the talent to take the next step in their careers but both recognise that it will all come down to their form in the back end of the season. Both of them will be looking to continue their good form for the Bushrangers and continue their hot start to the season by pushing deep into September, something Murray haven’t done in recent years.
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