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Draft Audition for WA National Championship Players

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 2:01 PM by Mark Readings

SOME of Western Australia’s most exciting football talent have reflected fondly on their NAB U18 AFL National Championships campaign. 

Leading local players Darcy Jones, Sam Gilbey and Elijah Hewett have been identified as potential AFL draftees later this year, and all three were all strong contributors for the Black Swans in a tough campaign. 

Midfielder Darcy Jones carried his strong form in the WAFL colts season into the 18s carnival. 

"It’s been an amazing experience and one I won’t forget anytime soon," Jones said.

"The group we had this year was very talented, and although it was challenging at times, it was so much fun." 

The speedy product from Swan Districts starred in the side’s opening round loss to Vic Metro, gathering 17 disposals and kicking two goals. 

"In every game I just want to go out and play the way I normally do, and that is to take the game on as much as possible," he said.

"I thought the tempo in that match was a lot quicker than at Colts level, which suited my style." 

Darcy stands out on the footy field for three reasons, his ability, his size and his helmet. 

But the 175-centimetre ball winner is unfazed by the attention. 

"I can appreciate some may consider size as important," Jones said.

"But it’s not something that I think about because I’ve always had to play against bigger bodies. 

"I started wearing a helmet after a couple of head knocks in junior footy. I don’t even realise I’m wearing it anymore."

Sam Gilbey overcame a tough start to his year to play in the championships. 

"The beginning of the season was challenging after I picked up glandular fever and missed a fair chunk of footy," Gilbey said.

"But I’m just grateful for the support of my family, teammates, plus coaches and staff at the Academy. I was just happy to get back to training after sitting on the sidelines and then be part of the U18s campaign." 

The Claremont defender produced a strong performance in WA’s 20-point victory over South Australia at Pentanet Stadium on Sunday, collecting 18 disposals. 

"It’s been a great experience in the State program," he said.

"I’ve enjoyed being around a group of talented players. 

"Being able to ask questions to players about how they do certain things and just general tips and advice about how they go about their business has been so valuable." 

Gilbey will now concentrate on a strong finish to the WAFL season to enhance his Draft prospects. 

"It’s been a focus this year, but I don’t like to think about it too much."

Elijah Hewett showed his talent early in the championships, with 29 disposals and two goals against Vic Metro in Game 1. 

Hewett was explosive in the championships opener and credits his time playing WAFL League matches this season as a great platform for the carnival. 

"The WAFL has helped me adapt to higher standards and faster ball movement, as well as a range of other skills," Hewett said.

"Most importantly has been the strength aspect. Competing with bigger bodies has made my return to my own age group for State duties easier than it otherwise would of." 

Being named in the WA leadership was also a highlight for Hewett. 

"The leadership aspect is an area I’ve been working on," he said.

"I learnt early that strong leadership and communication is necessary for a team to be successful no matter what level, so buying into the success of our State Academy I felt a responsibility to set high standards and build strong team cohesion."

The Swan Districts colts premiership player understands the focus of the upcoming draft. 

"It’s a very exciting period and I think getting a good balance outside football is important," Hewett said. 

The NAB U18 AFL National Championship is the highest level of state and territory representative football, as part of the AFL’s Talent Pathway Program. 

The sentiments of Jones echo the thoughts of many talented local players. 

"Playing at the top level has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and I’m just putting in every effort to end up on an AFL list," he said. 

For many in the WA squad, the countdown to the AFL Draft has become very real.