Reid touted as pick one in 2023
AFL Academy selectors will weigh in heavily on a decision whether Tongala teenage football star Harley Reid will be allowed to play with the Blues should they reach the 2022 Murray Football League grand final.
Reid’s future is the subject of hot debate leading into September, as he is touted as a potential number one pick at the 2023 AFL Draft, in November next year.
Tongala will, of course, need to win its way into the September 17 premiership play-off, before AFL Academy Coach (former 200-game Collingwood defender Tarkyn Lockyer) and his selectors are called on to make a call on Reid’s availability.
The Blues are currently third on the ladder with only three rounds of home and away football remaining before the finals.
Reid will also be part of the decision-making process, if it comes to that, as to whether or not he strips with his home club for a crack at its first premiership since Des Campbell’s Blues won the title in 1983 — 39 years ago.
He has played only one game with the club this season, but league rules state that his NAB League games count as senior MFL appearances — therefore he has qualified for the club.
In a quirk of the rules, he would even be available for the MFL Under 17 grand final — where many of his junior teammates still play — if Tongala was to make the final week of play-offs at the underage level.
Reid is due to play with the Vic Country team in the final round of the NAB Under 18 national championships six days after the MFL grand final — at Ikon Park against Vic Metro on Friday, September 23.
He told the Free Press he would sit down with the Pioneers’ coaching panel this week to discuss the hectic September schedule.
“I think I could play both if Tonny managed to reach the grand final. It is a six-day break,” he said.
“And I am desperate to be a part of this finals series. After all, I have played with the club since the Under 12s.”
Reid said the club had applied no pressure to make himself available, but he felt it wanted him to be there almost as much as he did.
He didn’t play with the Blues against Rumbalara in its one-sided win on the weekend, having spent the previous three days snowboarding with St Joseph’s College at Falls Creek.
“I was a bit sore from a few of the stacks I had,” he said.
Asked whether he had informed the Pioneers of the snowboarding trip he said, “yes, they just said to go easy’’.
Reid said this year was very much about being involved in a Tongala finals series, because his 2023 would be devoted to playing at the highest level he could.
“I really don’t know how much, if any, I will get to play with Tongala next year. So this year is important to me,’’ he said.
Reid’s hectic late September schedule could include the Future Stars Under 17 match on September 24, when Australia’s best juniors play as a curtain raiser on the MCG to the main event — the AFL grand final.
Tarkyn Lockyer said several stakeholders, including the player himself, would be part of the discussion about availability for the Tongala grand final.
There are several scenarios that will be unpacked in Reid’s case as the football season moves into September.
One of those is Bendigo Pioneers involvement in the unique NAB League wildcard round. The MFL grand final is the same weekend as the NAB League grand final, which Bendigo Pioneers (although an rank outsider) could still qualify for — despite being 12th on the ladder.
NAB League teams ranked fifth to 18th at the end of the home-and-away season play in a wildcard round (on August 27) while the top four teams sit on the sidelines.
Tongala’s finals series begins that same weekend, meaning Reid will not be available for the Blues.
Lockyer said the AFL Academy preferred its players to be involved in the pathway program, although being a country footballer himself (North Albany, West Australia) he understood the passionate nature of the decision.
“I will be a voice in the decision, but not the only one. There will be a few different stakeholders, including Harley,” Lockyer said.
"The bottom line is, how do we get Harley best prepared for the Vic Country game (on September 23)?
“I totally get the importance of him playing for his home-town football club.”
MFL general manager Dale Norman said the league had changed its rules to allow players such as Reid to return for finals football.
“In the past we have had a lot of Pioneers and Bushrangers players who haven’t been able to play due to not playing enough matches with their local club,” he said.
“These clubs put a lot of time into these players, so we decided to ensure they would be seen on the local grounds during finals.
“We changed the rules to make that happen. It is an AFL rule that an NAB game equates to a senior MFL game.
“Harley is still eligible for Under 17 finals in our rules.”
Pioneers administrator David Meade suggested his team could well cause a few surprises come the finals.
“We will get Noah Long (Echuca) and Charlie Barnett (Kyabram) back, along with our other APS (Associated Public Schools) players,” he said.
“We haven’t played with a full team at any stage this season.”
Reid is averaging 22 possessions and four tackles a game with the Pioneers this season, playing at centre half back in several instances for the undersized team.
His best game came when he almost singled handedly took the Pioneers to victory against the Western Jets in round nine with 30 possessions.
Meade likened his season to that of Collingwood’s headline-grabbing goalkicking ace, Jack Ginnivan, who polled extremely well in the Pioneers’ best and fairest as a bottom-age player in 2019.
Ginnivan and North Melbourne recruit Flynn Perez, along with Port Adelaide’s Kane Farrell, all had strong seasons as 17-year-olds with the Pioneers.
Meade described Reid as the best bottom-age player he had ever seen at the Pioneers, which included Richmond superstar Dustin Martin.
Crystal balling is not a recommended practice for any sportsperson, so Reid will be doing his best to keep his mind busy between now and, not only September, but as far off as November next year (when the 2023 AFL Draft will be held).
Reid, who won’t turn 18 until the middle of next football season, can afford to leave any forecasting of his future to other parties — interest growing exponentially in recent months about the next step in his footballing journey.
Warnings about the dangers of predicting future outcomes haven’t stopped the AFL media from naming the Tongala teenager as a potential number one pick for the 2023 draft.
Reid, who hasn’t started his final year of high school yet, answered questions about the draft on the AFL’s digital platform, Road to the Draft, a week ago.
For now, the 17-year-old has the final round of the NAB Under 18 National Championships firmly set in his sights.
Vic Country and Vic Metro, both unbeaten in the championships against West Australia, the Allies and South Australia in the opening three rounds, will play in a grand final-style meeting on September 23 (the day before the AFL grand final).
In a perfect world Reid will get to play both (Tongala grand final and round four of the championships).
Reid’s 2022 season has been as frantic as the interest in his ranking for the 2023 draft, having played three Vic Country games, one senior MFL game with Tongala and eight games with Bendigo Pioneers in the NAB League.
That, along with a stint training with Carlton as part of the AFL Academy program, has meant a jam-packed schedule for the St Joseph’s Year 11 student.
Reid was a key to the Pioneers’ second win of the 2022 season against Northern Knights on July 23.
The Pioneers came from behind to win by a point. Reid has become well known for performing in close games; he kicked two goals in the Pioneers’ draw with fourth-ranked Geelong Falcons earlier in the year.
He was again among the Pioneers’ top performers in a two-point loss to the Giants Academy team.
Bendigo has only two games of the season remaining, against Dandenong (August 7) and Murray Bushrangers (at Bendigo’s QEO on August 21).
Reid will be available for Tongala’s matches with Rumbalara (July 30) and the MFL’s top team, Cobram (August 14).
Reid, who kicked 130 goals with Tongala’s Under 14 team in 2019, has moved to a half back flank with Vic Country.
He took two match-winning, Leo Barry-esque, marks in the final quarter of the team’s two-point win against South Australia. He took 10 marks in defence and had 21 possessions in the victory.
“I am seeing the game from a different perspective at half back,’’ Reid told the Road to the Draft team.
“I’ve made this year more of a learning curve to gain experience for next year (Reid is eligible for Vic Country’s U18 team again in 2023).”
Last year he played three games as a 16-year-old in the NAB League, with Bendigo Pioneers
“I’ve always played a level up with Tongala, which has helped me. So, playing against bigger bodies and in faster footy is reasonably normal,” he said.
Reid has been likened to another former Bendigo Pioneers player, three-time North Smith Medal winner and 2017 Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin.
He has a stiff-arm fend-off technique similar to Martin, which he has used in several instances with the Vic Country team.
When quizzed about his home town on Road to the Draft he said — of the townspeople — “everyone knows everyone, they are very supportive”.
“This community is unreal,’’ he said.
When football and his education allows, Reid can be found working in the Ky West Hotel kitchen.
The Geelong fan is a self-confessed Paddy Dangerfield devotee and found himself “fan boying’’ over Carlton captain Patrick Cripps while training with the AFL Blues earlier in the year.
"I also spent a lot of time with Brodie Kemp, he is from Echuca and we knew one another, in the first couple of days. Then I spent some time with Charlie Curnow and Adam Cerra,’’ he said.
When quizzed about his draft year, in 2023, Reid said he felt as though next year was a long way off.
Sunday, August 7 NAB League: Bendigo Pioneers v Dandenong Stingrays
Saturday, August 13 Murray league: Tongala v Cobram (Pioneers bye)
Sunday, August 21 (QEO Oval, Bendigo): Pioneers v Murray Bushrangers
Saturday and Sunday, August 27-28: Pioneers wildcard round (opponent TBC) or first week of Murray Football League finals
Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4: Pioneers or Tongala finals
Saturday and Sunday, September 10-11: Pioneers or Tongala finals
Saturday, September 17: MFL grand final
Friday, September 23: Vic Country v Vic Metro (NAB U18 championships)
Saturday, September 24: Future Stars U17 game at MCG on grand final day