The ACT continues to produce AFL talent
The ACT ceased to be a strong Aussie Rules territory over 25 years ago – its demise corresponding with the Swans moving to Sydney in the same year that the Raiders were admitted to the then NSWRL.
It was also around this time that the legendary Cowboy Neil, a St Kilda and Ainslie FC icon, hung up his boots.
The ACTAFL can manage only five local teams these days, its stocks bolstered by the participation of the Swans Reserves, which at least does say something for the quality of the league under tough circumstances.
Ainslie FC has not had much success in the past decade, but in the latter half of the last century was an absolute powerhouse in local Aussie Rules, and to this day, still has a reasonable amount of resources at its disposal.
Like one or two other Aussie Rules clubs in Canberra, they manage a player salary bill of upwards of $500,000 per annum, which is a fair bit in a semi-professional competition in a non-AFL area.
In the late 80s and early 90s, it won six premierships in a row, adding to an already formidable list of awards.
The club has an interesting trophy on permanent display in its foyer in its original clubhouse at Ainslie (a once working class inner-city suburb that is now mostly gentrified).
A premiership Cup? Player of the century award? Some major representative honour?
No. It’s an old perpetual U13 Best and Fairest award that bears the following three names:
1. Shaun Smith (awarded the AFL mark of the century in 1995);
2. Nathan Buckley (Collinwood great and ex-captain, now assistant coach, being primed to take over from Mick Malthouse); and
3. James Hird (Essendon great, ex-captain and dual premiership winner).
It’s unlikely that any suburban club of any description in Australia boasts three names such as these on the one best and fairest trophy.
Of these three names, only James Hird was drafted directly from Ainslie FC. He was taken at a very low no. 79 in the 1990 draft.
His father played some four games with Essendon, while his grandfather was a premiership player who played over 100 games with the Dons and would later become a club president, having a grandstand named after him at Windy Hill.
So 19 years later, Jason Tutt becomes the newest player to be drafted directly from the Ainslie FC, and the first Canberra player to be drafted from the ACTAFL since current Swans co-captain, Craig Bolton, was drafted eleven years ago by Brisbane.
Only one other NSW/ACT Rams player was drafted this year, but he actually comes from Echuca, on the Victorian side of the Murray River.
Jason Tutt was taken by the Western Bulldogs at number 31, a very high selection which raised quite a few eye brows around AFL circles, as well as in the Tutt household.
Jason was hoping that he would be picked up by the Bulldogs, but was shocked to go so early, and in fact at that point, was only half watching the telecast, but when he heard the name Ainslie, he knew it had to be him.
As one can imagine, the Tutt household has been complete mayhem since Thursday night.
Jason still had to attend school this Monday to finish up, but instead will be required at West Footscray on Sunday for his first training run, meeting up with his new team mates for the first time.
He has already received the friendly advice to pick a locker well away from that of Barry Hall.
By all accounts the Bulldogs rate his pinpoint kicking, as they do that of their first round selection, Christian Howard.
He is known for his quick legs, run and carry off the half back flank, and capacity to spot up targets with his long kicking on the run, very much in the mould of the Bulldogs’ Lindsay Gilbee, who is known for his accurate 65-metre kicks.
He did very well in all the athletic tests at the recent draft camp, scoring a more than reasonable 14.4 in the beep test.
Jason has an interesting sporting background in that he has also represented Australia at softball, which suggests he has the mental capacity to play sport at the elite level.
The Bulldogs had another surprise selection up their sleeve, taking Shane Thorne of the Northern Territory at no. 76. It’s quite rare for a 23 year old from a minor state/territory to be drafted.
He is known locally as “Mr Magic”, so it’s possible he was on the Bulldog’s radar for a while.
Perhaps the Bullies have hopes of Thorne emulating the original NT Michael “Magic” McLean?