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    Warracknabeal's Dane Stewart is keeping his spirits high despite the cancellation of the NAB League.

Young footballers seeking alternative pathways


Young Wimmera footballers picked for Victoria’s now cancelled NAB League plan to stay on top of their game while they look to new horizons.

Boys and girls from the region selected to play for Greater Western Victoria Rebels against the best young players in the state will have to wait another year for primary drafting opportunities.  

But top-age players such as Warracknabeal’s Dane Stewart and Horsham’s Gage Wright, both playing in under-18s, will be looking at alternative pathways. 

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Both players hope league leaders will convene an under-19s competition for a chance to prove themselves when the sport can go ahead again beyond COVID-19. 

“I’ll just keep training and hope something opens up,” Stewart said.

“Hopefully next year they can run an under-19s competition so my age group, Gage and I, get another chance.” 

This was the first year Stewart had been successful in gaining a Rebels’ guernsey. 

He has played for Warrack Eagles his whole life and was excited to be able to represent his home town in the statewide competition. 

Stewart said due to COVID-19 he had anticipated the league’s cancellation, but it was still a crushing blow when he heard the news. 

“I saw it coming because it was on and off. I was getting keen to play footy and suddenly we can’t play anymore. That just hit me like a train,” he said. 

The Rebels’ boys were set to play in the opening game of the delayed under-18 season against Geelong Falcons in Ballarat on August 22.  

The Rebels’ under-18 girls were unbeaten from two games before the season was halted.

Stewart said he trained hard and consistently throughout the four months the league was postponed. 

“Almost every day I’d be down at the footy oval, running and kicking some goals, going to the gym, and then hearing the news it felt like I worked it up for nothing,” he said. 

He said despite the cancellation, he relished the opportunity and formed new friendships along the way. 

“It was about January or February when they released the teams and I found out I was in it – I’ve never made the team before,” he said. 

“I’ve always wanted to play and when I got selected, I was happy as.

“I formed some great relationships just through training with all the Wimmera guys.” 

Stewart said he would continue playing footy after he finished school. 

“I’m not necessarily expecting to get drafted, but it would be the dream,” he said. 

“I’m in my last year at school and after that I’ll be taking a gap year. I’ll be living around Horsham or Warracknabeal and I’ll keep playing footy.” 

Wright is keen to continue pursuing football beyond COVID-19. 

He said he planned to maintain his fitness level for when football could start again. 

“I put in a lot of work in the past few months. In that unsure phase we were still working hard, wondering if it was going to go ahead,” he said. 

“I’m going to keep doing my own running and bike sessions and keep myself fit so next year I’m not out of touch.”

Wright said he would take any opportunity that came his way to build on his football career. 

“If I got offered by AFL or VFL or another state league comp, I’d be happy to take that offer,” he said.

“If not, I will just keep playing the highest level of footy that I can.” 

The entire August 12, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!