By RUSSELL BENNETT
THERE’S no ’I’ in ’team’, and there isn’t in Caleb Serong’s name either.
The12-year-old midfield tearaway will lace up the boots for his state later this season in the School Sports Australia Under 12 football championships, held in Darwin.
Caleb, a former Longwarry star junior now plying his trade at the Warragul Colts, couldn’t believe his eyes when he read the email saying he’d made the Victorian side.
It’s his highest individual accolade so far, but don’t be mistaken for thinking that’s why he takes to the field each week.
When asked his favourite part of playing, Caleb was quick to answer: “Winning with my team mates”.
It’s easy to see why – he likens his game to Geelong champion Jimmy Bartel.
Caleb is in his fifth year of footy, having started in 2009 with Inverloch-Kongwak.
This young veteran started out against players two, even three years older than him and admits to keeping his nose out of the hard stuff early on.
But now his ability to win the contested ball, as well as push forward from the midfield and kick goals, is his biggest strength.
Caleb set himself apart in tryouts for the Victorian state team with his training intensity and ability to read the play, in addition to his sublime skills.
But the youngster may yet be forced to choose which sporting path he travels down. He’s also a prodigiously gifted cricketer and basketballer – having trialled at regional level for all three sports.
But having made it through the Vic Country and – later – the state trials, his course seems set for footy.
Caleb, one of only two Gippsland players to make the Victorian side, will train with his state team mates once a week until the championships from 10-18 August.
The Warragul Primary School student will also take part in practice matches against private school football powerhouses Trinity Grammar, Scotch College and Carey Grammar.
But he’s far from over-awed. In fact, Caleb said the prospect of those match-ups spurs him on.
“It’s just going to be hard because, apparently, they’re under-13s or under-14s – a year or two older than us!” he said.
The Serong family has deep ties to the West Gippsland footy community. Caleb’s dad Jamie, Longwarry’s EDFL delegate, said he was thrilled “to see (Caleb) enjoying himself”.
“The best part is that he’s always challenging himself to reach the highest level he can possibly go.”