American colleges could be AFL’s next frontier

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By , Michael DiFabrizio is a Roar Expert

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    Kevin Sheedy is always keen on making headlines and last week was no different, suggesting that his Greater Western Sydney club will look to California to find playing talent.

    If it weren’t for the fact he made good on his original promise to scour the globe by signing a South African just a few days earlier, his comments might have been written off as an act of publicity.

    But it seems as though the great man is indeed headed across the Pacific. “I’ll be going to California to chase players don’t even worry about that,” he assured us all.

    Where exactly he’ll be looking and whether he will find anything is anyone’s guess.

    However unearthing future Aussie Rules talent in the States mightn’t be as tough a challenge as some would assume it to be, especially if you’re going in with the sort of optimism that Sheedy possesses.

    Believe it or not, in the past couple of months two former college basketball players have made their way onto AFL lists.

    The first to do so, Daniel Bass, was admittedly born and raised in Melbourne. But he had a limited football background even before his four-year stint at Metro State University in Denver, Colorado.

    The club that recruited him – curiously they chased after him, and not the other way around – was Port Adelaide, who have a history in this area after they plucked Dean Brogan from the NBL. Brogan would go on to become a big part of Port’s premiership-winning team and one of the game’s elite ruckmen.

    The other signing, Seamus McNamara, hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After his college stint, at Marist College in New York, he played a season of professional basketball in Germany before putting together “audition tapes” in the hope of catching the attention of an AFL club.

    His CV landed at Collingwood and after a series of trials, he became an international rookie at the club. In spite of his inexperience, he was the surprise opening goal-kicker at the Pies’ intra-club game last week.

    Both are around the 200cm mark and have been earmarked as potential ruckmen or, in McNamara’s case, perhaps even a key forward. Both, however, are viewed as medium-term prospects at best, so not much is expected in the near future.

    It will be interesting to monitor their progress.

    It’s not as if the US college system is short on athletic talent. Huge numbers of athletes don’t go on to the professional level in their chosen sport, be that basketball or otherwise.

    The success of Brogan’s recruitment shows that a transition is certainly possible.

    But perhaps the most enticing motivator for clubs is that international rookies are basically a “free hit” on top of the existing list. They can bypass both the draft system and the salary cap.

    So whilst Sheedy coming out boldly stating that he’ll venture to California in search of talent may at first seem a tad crazy and unlikely to lead to much, there’s clearly some method to his madness.

    The likes of Port and Collingwood may only be scratching the surface of what could be a much bigger talent pipeline.

    It wouldn’t be a surprise to see other clubs making similar moves in the not too distant future.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio works as a newspaper journalist in country Victoria. He has been an expert AFL columnist with The Roar since 2009, which has led to appearances on ABC Television, ABC Radio and in The Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @mdifabrizio

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