IF you wind the clock back to November 25 2017, it is pretty easy to remember the first five names from the AFL National Draft – Rayner, Brayshaw, Dow, Davies-Uniacke and Cerra; but what do they all have in common?
Well for starters they are all from Victoria, but more importantly they are all private school boys from prestigious APS and AGSV schools. But the private school system isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to having players drafted. Essendon Keilor College, a non-private school have one such program that runs specifically for football – boasting the names of 28 former students who have gone on to play AFL.
Essendon Keilor College’s (EKC) successful program over the last 15 years, has seen players not only reach the AFL and VFL, but has formed partnerships with Victoria University and local TAC Cup clubs in the Calder Cannons and Western Jets. Their football squad, has won three consecutive premierships in the School Sport Victoria (SSV) competition and have been part of the Herald Sun Shield Semi-Finals, with St Bernard’s College taking out the 2017 edition of the Herald Sun Shield.
The program values leadership very highly and this has been reflected in the squad having had a total of eight premiership co-captains over the last three years, seeing enormous growth from so many students throughout the year, allowing them to get to the point of having multiple excellent young leaders that have a huge impact on the program. The SSV Premier League competition was introduced in 2011, catering for the sports specialist schools that have high performing sporting teams. EKC will kick-off their attempt at a ‘four-peat’ next month.
EKC’s Director of Football Mark McInerney believes their program not only develops players as footballers, but prepares them for life outside of the football field.
“The program provides both students with access to elite strength and conditioning training and skill development,” McInerney said. “The opportunity to train and play in the invite only School Sport Victoria Premier League where they learn the important of preparing physically and mentally to compete, learn and be an integral and selfless member of a team. “The program works closely with TAC Cup clubs in our region and has access to the state of the art Victoria University facilities and leadership programs which help to further develop them as footballers and people. “The program focuses on the important of developing not only quality footballers but high-quality students and respectful members of the community to prepare them for life post-school.”
Currently Richmond player Corey Ellis is one such EKC graduate, where back in 2012 he won best-on-ground honours in the SSV Premier League Grand Final. Ellis’ brother Nathan is currently involved in the EKC and Western Jets programs.
The unique opportunity to develop not only on the football field is one such benefit that 2017 captain Ethan Schumann believed.
“What makes it appealing is that it gives the kids that aren’t offered private school scholarhips the opportunity to still go to a school that focuses heavily on development of them as a person and as a footballer,” Schumann said. “It enables players to play at a high standard of football on consistent basis. The coaching is also a major factor. “It is a smaller school that has a group of boys that become a tight knit group that you become friends with for the rest of your life along with the opportunity to improve yourself as person and as a footballer.”
As one of the bigger “non-private school” AFL providers, EKC have plenty of promising talent in the future, with one such player coming through the school’s system in Western Jets player Darcy Cassar. As an Under 16/Year 10 student last season, his second game of TAC Cup football saw him boot four goals in a lively performance at RAMS Arena against the Northern Knights. In his first two games of the 2018 TAC Cup season, Cassar has booted two goals and averaged just under 15 disposals for the Jets.
With the success of EKC’s football program having been a huge success in terms of on-field and off-field development for the boys in the program, expect to hear plenty of more success and draftees from the “non-private school” that is batting well above its weight division.
Want to know more about EKC? Click here.