School work and specialised training is keeping highly touted Western Jets young gun Cameron Rayner firmly grounded ahead of November’s AFL national draft.
The explosive half-forward/midfielder has ticked all the boxes in a stellar junior career, with some of the draft forecasters predicting he will be selected with the first pick, or not long after.
Rayner is aware of the hype, he takes in the media coverage and sees the social media posts, but he knows it is all just background noise until draft night rolls around.
“The real people that are going to make the decisions are the recruiters and they keep their cards pretty close to their chest,” Rayner said.
“I’ve said from day one, I don’t care if I’m pick one or pick 100, I just want to make sure I’m on an AFL list.
“It’s good to see [the positive stories], but you just put your head back down and start working.”
Rayner has been successful from the moment he set foot on a football ground in the under-10s.
He kick-started his junior career with the Hillside Sharks – the club he identifies as home because of his family connection – winning “four or five” premierships at division 2 level, before crossing to Essendon Doutta Stars to play division 1, where he incredibly won two flags in a week.
“One was in the under-16s one week and then in the under-18s the week after,” Rayner said.
“To win two in a couple of weeks was awesome.”
Rayner was identified as a top prospect from a young age.
The 17-year-old got his first major break as a half-back flanker in the Victorian schoolboys team and has made every post a winner since.
He has starred for the Jets in the TAC Cup, dominated in the Big V for Vic Metro at the under-18 national championships and represented the NAB AFL Academy with aplomb on interstate and overseas tours.
It seems a fait accompli that Rayner will be on an AFL list next season.
One of the driving forces for Rayner was missing out on the first intake of players for the NAB AFL Academy.
“In the 16s year, I didn’t make it in the first intake, so I made a bit of a note to myself of making sure I can push forward and try and get in the next year, so when I got selected for that, I was over the moon,” he said.
“I got to go to America and Darwin and got to know all the boys, they’ve all had awesome years … so I loved being part of the academy.”
Born in 1999, Rayner did not grow up in a state of origin era, but he is fully aware of what the Big V represents.
Honoured by the Vic Metro call-up, Rayner did not let the chance go to waste, being one of the side’s most influential players in a title-winning team, earning rave reviews and All Australian honours.
“The feeling of pulling on the Big V jumper before the game is unbelievable, you can’t really describe it,” Rayner said.
“Obviously winning the championship was just a bonus, but whenever you get the chance to play for Victoria, you’ve got to make the most of it and I reckon everyone in that team did this year.
“The boys in that Vic Metro team were all grouse to be around. I loved every minute of that.”
Rayner split his time with the Western Jets and Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School this season.
The Sydenham resident regrets not playing more games for the Jets because the side finally realised its potential late in the season when it was too late to play in the finals, but was equally as thrilled to play alongside school mates for PEGS.
Rayner is the September nominee for the Don Deeble Rising Star award.
The award, hosted by the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and
Star Weekly, recognises youth athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved outstanding results at state and or national levels.
Rayner will receive $1000, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club. He will also receive other prizes to assist him in achieving his sporting goals in what promises to be a great career.