By RUSSELL BENNETT
TWO local TAC Cup footballers now have a shot at proving themselves to AFL scouts in the elite under-age competition, but not before facing the reality of rejection first.
James Munro and Luke Marchetti are both 18-years-old and they’re both from the Cora Lynn Football Club. But the similarities don’t end there.
The Dandenong Stingrays knocked both boys back, before they ultimately latched on with the Dragons for this year’s TAC Cup.
Munro was too raw. He had only just returned to football after making the switch to hockey. He was playing school footy at Mazenod but hadn’t played for a club since his days in the under-12s and 13s.
Still, he wanted “to give footy another crack”. Being in the Stingrays’ zone, he had hoped the Dandenong side would consider him. They declined – citing his lack of experience and doubts that his hockey background could translate into success on the footy field.
But Chris Mangoni, a close friend and last year’s Dragons captain, put in a good word for Munro at Sandringham.
He got his opportunity in the pre-season and took it with open arms. Munro has showed staggering progress since making his switch back to footy – recording a 15.12 mark in the beep test at TAC Cup testing earlier this year, and being invited to try out for the Vic Metro squad.
He is proof that there is always another way in – that the least worn paths are still worth taking.
Munro’s Cora Lynn team-mate Marchetti is in the same boat. The Stingrays cut him towards the end of his time in the under-16s. Essentially, he was too light.
So, he put on more than 15 kilograms, knuckled down for the Cora Lynn senior side in the EDFL alongside his brother Sean and forced the Dragons to give him a look in (with a little help from Cobras stalwart Terry Dillon, who has helped both boys along the way).
Cora Lynn coaching director Nick Rutley and Bunyip player-coach Callum Pattie told the Gazette last week (24 April) that local senior footy was a great proving ground for promising youngsters – that the physicality and toughness of big-bodied opposition in leagues like the EDFL would do wonders for local 17 and 18 year olds. Munro and Marchetti proved them right.
Both boys are vying to improve week after week for the Dragons in the hope that, come the business end of the year, AFL sides will come knocking.
But if they don’t? Like Rutley and Pattie said, big-league sides are now realising the value of “mature-age” picks – players in their late teens and early twenties who have spent time developing in local and state leagues.
“It’s great to know that this year, while it’s very important, it’s not the be-all and end-all. You can go back and do a few years and still make it,” Munro said.