There was a lot of hype surrounding Western Jets prodigies Cameron Rayner and Lachlan Fogarty going into this football season.
How could there not be some excitement after what the pair had achieved to that point in their junior careers – dominating school football, starring for the Western Jets in the TAC Cup, featuring in state squads and being chosen for the AFL academy?
The glowing appraisals would count for little when it came to their AFL draft prospects if they did not impress on the big stage for Vic Metro in front of the recruiters at the under-18 national championships.
Impress they did.
Not only were they an integral part of Vic Metro’s title defence, they also received All Australian honours.
Western Jets coach Torin Baker believes All Australian selections are fitting culminations for their junior careers.
“They’ve had a lot of honours along the way, but this really tops off their junior footy careers,” he said.
Rayner, a product of the Hillside and Essendon Doutta Stars football clubs, was the talk of the press box for his incredible championships.
Invariably, whenever his name popped up in conversations, someone would mention “Dusty”, in reference to Richmond star Dustin Martin. It’s unfair to a young player to liken their game to an AFL superstar, but the likeness in style is too much to ignore.
Just like Dusty, Rayner, who plays midfield and forward, is a power runner, takes on opponents with his strength and dare and finishes neatly on the run.
“He’s drawing comparisons to those sorts of players and it’s fair enough, because he’s now produced at a high level consistently,” Baker said. “Not only has he played a good championships, but his form when he played the academy games was very good.
“He’s really strong, he’s really powerful – he just chances his arm at everything”
Fogarty overcame a tough preparation to have an impact in the midfield for Vic Metro.
The former Spotswood junior was hampered by a groin injury and forced to miss the first game of the championships.
Once back in the Big V, Fogarty delivered a high work rate, repeatedly getting to contests and extracting the ball for the outside runners.
“He had a really interrupted few weeks leading up,” Baker said. “To come in and do what he did and play well in each of the games didn’t surprise me because that’s what happens with ‘Fogs’.
“His greatest strength is his intensity around the ball, whether he’s winning it or putting on pressure – it’s what makes him the player that he is.”
There were four Western Jets players selected in the triumphant Vic Metro squad.
Forward-ruck Tristan Xerri featured in two games, while bottom-age player Buku Khamis will have to wait until next year for his debut.
Xerri, a strong contested marking player, impressed in his limited games.