Sport

AFL in sight for young talent from the Murray

By Brayden May

THIS CENTURY Echuca-Moama has produced three top 10 picks in the national draft — Andrew Walker, Ollie Wines and Clayton Oliver.

Currently there are seven players in the AFL system from the twin towns and surrounding with another very close to joining them.

If you believe the hype — and you certainly should — Brodie Kemp (above) is mere months away from being on an AFL list.

“When you are in this sort of position, you do start to look ahead,” Kemp said.

“But you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground because there is still a long way to go and anything could happen.

“I’m lucky to have a strong support base around me to keep me concentrated on taking the journey one step at a time.”

Just where the 18-year-old is selected is anyone’s guess with most mock drafts placing him inside the top 10.

“Brodie Kemp announced himself as one of the midfielders with the greatest upside in the pool during Bendigo’s loss to Gippsland,” ESPN’s Chris Doerre wrote in April.

While AFL.com.au’s Callum Twomey wrote: “Kemp’s final two games of the (national) championships will see his stocks soar. Package what he showed in both games and it’s exactly what scouts were hoping to see.”

Despite praise coming in faster than a bullet from Kemp’s right boot, the Echuca product knows his game being critiqued is only just beginning.

“It is always nice when you read and hear those sorts of comments,” he said.

“But at the end of the day it comes down to the recruiters and what they want.

“A lot of people can say what they want, whether it be good or bad. You try and keep away from the outside noise because it can be a big distraction.

‘‘My job is to focus on myself and tick off the goals I set for myself along the way.’’

While Kemp has been on the radar of AFL clubs as he progressed through the Bendigo Pioneers system, it was a push for midfield minutes which saw his stocks rise.

“At the start of the year, I targeted moulding myself into a big body midfielder because they are so valuable in modern footy,’’ he explained.

“That’s where I wanted to go and adding to the versatility of where I can play football is a benefit to how recruiters see me.

“Ever since I started playing footy I’ve learnt to play in several different positions.”

As kids we all dream of being like our heroes, wanting to play the exact way they do.

And Kemp is no different despite possibly being on the same list as his hero in several months.

“Carlton captain Patrick Cripps is a guy who I really follow closely,” he said.

“A lot of kids envy his attack on the footy and how he plays with a ruthless mentality in every game.

“His ability to win the contested ball and dictate stoppages is something I really appreciate. If I can be half the player he is I think I would be doing a half decent job.

“But at the same time though I want to be my own player.”

Kemp followed in the Blues star’s footsteps at the recent national championships, where he spent the majority of his time in the middle of the ground.

There he flourished, averaging 20 disposals, 6.5 marks and 2.3 tackles across four carnival games on his way to All-Australian selection.

His biggest moment came against South Australia when Kemp slotted the winning goal with just seconds remaining.

“As a kid you always dream about winning a game for your team on or after the siren,” he said.

“Unfortunately our luck changed when Western Australia kicked a goal with the last kick of the game next up — but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

“To experience the carnival for a second time was great and it definitely helped to develop my game.

“I thought the longer the carnival went on, the more consistent footy I was beginning to play.”

Now with his state commitments behind him, Kemp will play his footy between Geelong Grammar in the APS school competition and Bendigo Pioneers as he gears up for a rollercoaster ride.

“Both competitions expose you to a really good level of competition,” he said.

“It gives me the opportunity to play against some of the most talented guys in the draft class which is only going to help me in the long run.

“The different environments also give me the chance to hear from different coaching perspectives which is really important as I continue to learn about the game.

“I’m going to push myself no matter what jumper I’m pulling on.”

As Kemp prepares for his final days of junior football, it doesn’t matter to him where he is playing next year.

“I want to be pulling on an AFL jumper next year, no matter the colours.”