Kevin Sheedy presented the opening address

AFL's Army of Talent Scouts

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph described it as the emergence of a new army of AFL talent scouts determined to find the next Kieren Jack or Israel Folau.

They are the men and women whose job it is to identify potential stars from any code and help to get them participating in Australian football. Where did they come from?

They were all participants in the AFL’s inaugural “AFL Level 1 Identifying Talent for AFL Course” conducted at the AFL facilities at Blacktown International Sports Park on Monday 11 July during the recent NAB AFL U16 National Championships.

The course, the first of its kind to be held in Australia, and recognised by the Australian Sports Commission and the AFL, is designed to develop people working in the field of talent identification and recruiting athletes in Australian Football, focusing on identifying talent for regional, state and potential AFL level.  The course is geared for staff at all levels (including primary, secondary, junior/youth/senior etc) and no prior experience in Talent ID is required to attend this course.

GWS Giants Head Coach Kevin Sheedy, along with AFL National and International Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan who was instrumental in developing the course, has long advocated such an approach. Sheedy presented the Opening Address and a number of other key speakers, including AFL club recruiting managers, AFL/AIS Academy staff and AFL national talent staff, presented in the course.

The main course components and presenters were:

  • Spotting the future – Kevin Sheedy (Head Coach – GWS Giants)
  • What is Talent? – John Turnbull (Recruiting Officer, Melbourne FC)
  • Developing a model for AFL Recruiting - Kevin Sheehan  (AFL National & International Talent Manager)
  • Finding AFL Talent in New Markets - Mark Browning (AFL NSW/QLD Talent Manager)
  • So can you find a potential AFL star? – Brad Lloyd (Recruiting Manager , Fremantle FC)
  • Reporting on talent in AFL – Peter Schwab (AFL director of Coaching) & Michael O’Loughlin (Head Coach AIS/AFL Academy)
  • Using combines to attract talent – James Veale (AFL Talent, Conditioning & High Performance Manager)
  • Reporting on AFL talent – practical exercise

The practical exercise for the course, leading to assessment for accreditation, was done in two ways: live at the WA vs. Vic Country match in Division 1 of the NAB AFL U16 Nationals Championships the following day; or for those who were unable to attend the match, a DVD of the game was provided.

Everyone participating in the course was assigned a group of five players from one of the teams and required to produce a recruiting report on four of the players using the AFL recruiting template provided to complete the assessment. They were given the full team lists (AFL Championships Record) and the AFL Combine test results of their assigned players. Immediately post game the Champion Data match statistics for the game were also made available.

AFL Talent Manager, Kevin Sheehan, said at the time “The opportunity for young aspiring AFL Stars has never been greater with the expansion of the AFL Competition; the Gold Coast Suns exciting entry this year and the Greater Western Sydney Giants on the verge of their debut season in 2012.

“Exciting footballers, making unbelievable plays…that’s what makes the AFL the most popular football code in Australia today. The game has no boundaries and its growth in a short time into the South Pacific, South Africa, Asia, USA, Canada and Europe is reaching a tipping point towards coming truly international. “

“Searching for an AFL Star is a full-time profession for scores of recruiting personnel at the AFL Level. Thousands of others have an enormous impact on the lives of aspirants as they scout and select AFL Talent Squads at local, regional, state and national level. “

AFL Talent & Academies Manager AFL NSW/QLD, Mark Browning urged scouts to consider themselves in the futures market and to look outside Australian football as well as within.  “Soccer, basketball, rugby codes, volleyball, athletics; no athlete was off limits. Every talented person can be nurtured and developed into a player. We are looking at any age – it’s about connecting them to the game. “

At the end of the course every participant was challenged with finding one player who would play in the AFL in the next 10 years. Many enthusiastically started on the path of implementing their new knowledge observing players in the AFL U16 Championships the next day.

The course will be rolled out across the country over the next 12 months.

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