Two of the Western Jets’ most promising young stars have been included in the 2020 NAB AFL Academy squad.
Eddie Ford and Cody Raak were touted as two of the bottom-age Jets players to watch in the NAB League last season and they did not disappoint.
The pair did enough to impress selectors for Vic Metro’s elite academy, which allows them to take part in high performance camps focusing on the players on and off-field education.
Jets football operations manager Matthew Dervan was not surprised when Ford and Raak were named in the squad last week.
“If you sat down at the start of the year and looked at who would get named, you would’ve backed those two in pretty heavily,” he said.
“It’s obviously good news for those two boys.”
Ford, Raak and the other 148 players from across Australia who are part of the AFL Academy will get a head start on their top age junior seasons by being part of these elite squads.
The players will get the chance to learn tricks of the trade from elite coaches, many of whom have played at the highest level.
They will also get to meet with AFL clubs to find out what they are looking for in players that could potentially be recruited at the 2020 draft.
Even just training alongside the elite players in their age group will be a bonus for the pair.
“They definitely get an advantage over the rest of the NAB League players,” Dervan said.
“They’ll be exposed to a higher level coaching group and to the AFL clubs really early as well.
“The camps start in December, so there will already be AFL clubs in and around the camp, speaking to players and getting to know the players.
“It gives them an advantage in terms of what might come in terms of AFL club interviews and visits and the types of questions they might get asked next year.
“To train with all the high level talent within the NAB League will also be a benefit.”
Ford was the standout bottom-age player on the Western Jets list last season.
The exciting 17-year-old forward from Yarraville Seddon Eagles polled the most votes of any bottom-ager in the club’s Barry Round Medal to earn the best first year player award.
“He showed the whole package on the field,” Dervan said.
“He’s an exciting talent playing as a high half-forward with a lot of tricks around goal and he moves really well.
“He loves the big stage and performed excellently on grand final day in the curtain-raiser before the AFL grand final.
“He has some tremendous upside that I know AFL clubs are already really excited about looking forward to 2020.”
Raak, aligned to the Western Bulldogs through its next generation academy, had a slow start to the season due to injury but enjoyed a big finish.
The 17-year-old from Caroline Springs impressed in a key defensive post, but will be looking to mature into a swingman in his second season in the NAB League.
“Cody missed the early part of the year with an arm issue,” Dervan said.
“That set him back a little bit, but he was really diligent with his rehab and was really patient in making sure that once he got back he was fully fit and ready to go.
“He came back into the team as a forward and his movement and running patterns weren’t clicking, so we threw him down back and he thrived as one of the key defenders for us.”