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How heartbreaking junior snub turned AFL hopeful Harry Sheezel into a Rising Star

Josh Squire new author
Roar Rookie
6th October, 2023
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Josh Squire new author
Roar Rookie
6th October, 2023
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At 13 years of age, Harry Sheezel was named as the best player in his Under 14 inter-league team.

A year later, he was in his room, crying after being left out of the side completely.

It wasn’t easy for someone who loved footy the way he did to find himself out of the representative side.

After hurting his back in the lead-up, Sheezel’s coach told him he simply wasn’t up to standard.

Instead, he was placed in the second team, where he kicked 12 goals in three games, proving why he belonged at the higher level.

It was hard for Sheezel to understand that the coach had decided not to pick him, and even harder to believe that it was because he didn’t think he was up to it.

But for the North Melbourne young gun and 2023 Rising Star winner, the feedback that he received was everything he wanted, and it’s what he looks for nowadays to improve his game.

“[I prefer] honesty in general. If someone thinks something of me, just tell me,” he said.

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“If everything’s going well, tell me. If they think there’s something I need to improve on, tell me. If there’s something I’m not doing well then tell me, because I care so much about footy and all I want to do is get better and be the best I can be.”

The disappointment of the snub would have been enough to turn many away from the game, but Sheezel’s determination to be the best meant it became only a motivator for him.

Now, in 2023, after being picked third by North Melbourne in last year’s draft, Sheezel capped his outstanding first AFL season by claiming the Rising Star Award as well as a Syd Barker Medal, becoming the first player since 1997 to win a club best and fairest at the first try.

At just 18 years of age, he is doing his best to take everything in his stride, including an increasing number of photo requests when he goes out in public.

“It kind of feels weird. Like you just feel like a normal person and when it happens… it kind of feels cool,” he said.

“I enjoy it and I like giving back to the fans because I was the exact same when I was a kid.”

Jack Ziebell and Harry Sheezel of the Kangaroos celebrate.

Harry Sheezel with Jack Ziebell. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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A three-time club champion for his junior side Ajax FC, Sheezel showed signs of exceptional footballing ability from a young age, taking home the award for the first time as a 12-year old.

Starting out in Under 9’s with his dad Dean coaching, he tasted premiership success in the South Metro Junior Football League at seven – something he wouldn’t achieve again until his final year of junior football.

However, growing up as a Hawthorn supporter, winning flags was something he became accustomed to. Watching a premiership threepeat by the Hawks from the stands and getting to as many games during the season as possible cultivated an ever-growing love for the game.

Even as a young boy, Sheezel was in good hands. Under the watchful eye of his dad and fellow junior coach Jason Wrobel, he grew his game further, which Wrobel says is a testament to his ‘commitment and dedication, self belief and temperament’ on top of his raw talent.

Sheezel made his debut for the Ajax seniors in 2021, slotting four goals in his first game and showing early signs of being able to mix it with grown men.

That same year, he joined the Sandringham Dragons in the then-named NAB League (now the Talent League), where he played his final two years of junior football alongside other highly talented youngsters including Will Ashcroft – now at Brisbane – and Cam Mackenzie – now at Hawthorn.

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In 2022, as vice-captain, Sheezel kicked four goals in the Dragons’ grand final win over Dandenong, a game he rates as his favourite from his career thus far, bolstering his draft hopes at the perfect time.

With aspirations to join Kangaroo greats such as Brent Harvey and Drew Petrie in North Melbourne’s 300-game club, Sheezel has set himself up well, signing on until 2026 with the Roos as the club looks to lock in their future superstar for the long haul.

As for right now, his sole focus is football, and you can hear it in his voice that he’s willing to do anything for the game he gets to play for a living.

“It’s pretty full on and you’re just in this lifestyle now that you’re surrounded by footy, 24/7,” Sheezel said.

“And that’s what I love about it.”

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What’s next for the young star remains to be seen, but there’s no doubting his drive to become one of the best in the competition.

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